Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Song of Praise For The People Who Write Subject Headings

Did you see this wonderful passage by Matt Weiland in the New York Times Book Review? It's the opening paragraph of a review of Kockroach, by Tyler Knox; we haven't read the book, but this paragraph might warm any librarian's heart.
Our finest literary critics hold no endowed chairs and never win prizes, yet their work has the poetry of truth about it and there’s nobody better at answering the fundamental question about any book, a question always more interesting and always harder to answer than whether it’s any good: what is it really about? I mean, of course, the anonymous librarians who prepare the Cataloging in Publication data for the Library of Congress, the brief descriptive classifications that appear on the copyright page of most books. Is there a more succinct description of John Updike's "Rabbit, Run than "Middle class men — Fiction"? What writer doesn't envy the economy and force of "Massacres — Fiction" for Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" and "Industrial accidents — Fiction" for Don DeLillo’s "White Noise"? And will there ever be a finer gloss on Marilynne Robinson’s "Housekeeping" than "Eccentrics and eccentricities — Fiction"?
Many thankyous to Mr. Weiland, and to the New York Times, for permission to quote the whole paragraph.

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