Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


Just Saying

You say, "Regulation;"
I say, "Protection."

You say, "Obstacle to profit;"
I say, "Concern for the common good."

You say, "Business first;"
I say, "People first."

Shadows & Light


Kernels that Cannot Be Condensed

I honestly feel I never have much of a response lately to the question, "How are you doing?" Most of the time, I don't really know. It has much to do with, I'm sure, our two little boys at home (21 and 40 months old). And I've just come across a wonderful summation of that feeling:
I don't know myself as well as I used to, says a middle-aged friend raising two young children. But he does know. He just isn't thinking about it as much anymore.
It's from a book: 300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso. The book is a collection of aphorisms that hint at a story. Think of this as a short book composed entirely of what I hoped would be a long book's quotable passages, she writes in one of them. Here a few others I'm particularly fond of:
I like writing that is unsummarizable, a kernel that cannot be condensed, that must be uttered exactly as it is.


The true nobility put their inferiors at ease--by being kind to them? No, by dismantling the system for a moment.


The first beautiful songs you hear tend to stay beautiful because better than beauty, which is everywhere, is the memory of first discovering beauty.


Talking with someone who reveals nothing, I hear myself madly filling the emptiness with information about myself.


Many bird names are onomatopoetic--they name themselves. Fish, on the other hand, have to float there and take what they get.
I like the wisdom and insight those contain. Here's my review, which shares a few more.

One of the aphorisms from the middle of 300 Arguments reads:
Think of this as a short book composed entirely of what I hoped would be a long book's quotable passages.
And they are that, quotable. Reflections, insights, memories that each capture some truth about life. They are aphorisms, each a self-contained, poetic, miniature essay.
I used to write these while playing hooky on what I hoped would be my magnum opus. Assigning myself to write three hundred of them was like forcing myself to chain-smoke until I puked, but it didn't work. I didn't puke.
Yet, while they are each self-contained and complete, they are arranged in a sequence that tells a story. They are dots that can be connected to get a sense of a person behind them. While some are purely general,
Shame needs an excuse to feel ashamed. It apologizes for everything, even itself.
others convey common experiences with specific memories,
In ninth grade I was too afraid to speak to the boy I loved, so I mailed him a black paper heart every week for a year. I wasn't afraid of him; I was afraid of my feeling. It was more powerful than God. If we'd ever spoken it might have burned the whole place down.
and still others simply capture personal moments and feelings:
The most fervent kiss of my life was less than five seconds long more than ten years ago with someone else's husband. It still hasn't quite worn off.
Most are confessional on at least some level, particularly when connected with those surrounding them. Many echo, complement, and supplement previous thoughts from different perspectives. Themes emerge: desire, loss, ambition, writing, intimacy, vulnerability, suffering, marriage, parenthood, and mortality among them.

A person emerges: a passionate artist who has succeeded on at least some level as a writer, who has experienced many relationships before finding contentment in becoming a wife and mother, who has struggled with chronic illness, and who is reflecting on all of it from the perspective of a premature, voluntary end of life.

It is a book that asks if unfulfilled yearning is enough, in and of itself.
There were people I wanted so much before I had them that the entire experience of having them was grief for my old hunger.
And it is a book that hints at the hints of fulfillment a particular person has found.

And it accomplishes all of that in a spare, minimal, efficient, and original manner. It is quite a writing feat.
On the page, these might look like the stones of a ruin, strewn by time and weather, but I was here.


Threshold, Day 1

On the tip of my tongue.
In the corner of my eye.
Just out of reach.
Pressure building.
Thoughts not quite coalescing.
Waiting for things to bubble to the surface.
Cogitating. Percolating. Accumulating.

Always tired. Always drained. Lacking the energy to form words. To form concepts. I have been consuming and consuming; trying to fuel new fire. My belly feels full. Ideas and feelings wanting to emerge. Thoughts not quite coalescing. There are things to be said; I don’t know yet what they are. Maybe, just maybe, taking time to sit and write will give them an opportunity to escape that intuitive, associative realm they currently roam.

Maybe there’s too much wanting simultaneous release to fit through the threshold available.

A poem I like:
Wander Through the Pages
Karla Kuskin

So I picked out a book
on my own
from the shelf
and I started to read
on my own
to myself.
And nonsense and knowledge
came tumbling out,
whispering mysteries,
history’s shout,
the wisdom of wizards
the songs of the ages,
all wonders of wandering
wonderful pages.

From I Am the Book, poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Yayo
I want to find a way to display this in the youth section of my library.
I haven’t found where or how yet.
The thought of it is not quite coalescing.
I’m letting the idea cogitate, percolate, accumulate.
Waiting for materialization to bubble to the surface.

I’m ready for my own nonsense and knowledge to come tumbling out.

"Like" does a disservice to my affection for the poem. It’s a significant understatement.

I printed the poem out in an extra large font and put it on a bulletin board in my previous library. My current library doesn’t have any bulletin boards.

Lots of windows, though. Windows are good.

And not just nonsense and knowledge for my own sake. I’m supposed to be contributing to a blog on my library’s website. Content for writers. I haven’t had anything to say for quite a while. I need to write about writing for readers of the blog, in addition to writing for myself.

My figurative belly may be full; my literal one is not. Lunch, then more.


Discovering the Writer Within: The 40-Day Writer’s Workshop
Barry Lane and Bruce Ballenger

It happened to be on the shelf when I browsed the library earlier, looking for inspiration, for material that might prompt a post for the blog.

Day one: "Begin writing, starting with the four words below. Write quickly, without thinking too much about what you want to say before you write it. Write for ten minutes. Time yourself.

"When I write, I . . . "

When I write, I try to imitate writing I enjoy. In style, tone, approach, organization. If I liked reading it--and, presumably, others did as well--then there are things I might learn from it. It might inform my writing choices. It might teach me.

Of course, there are plenty of things considered “good writing” that I’m not inclined to imitate. As I said at the beginning, they are the things I enjoy.

I enjoy a slight sense of ambiguity. A tension that needs resolving. Just enough left unsaid to be vague and a bit confusing. Episodic. Themes that skip back and forth over each other without transition, circling and merging over time to gradually come into focus. Ideas that keep cycling back, gaining more layers and nuance each time around. Connections.

I like to synthesize. So, when I write, I like to lay out pieces that need synthesis to fully make sense.

When I write, I have to work to not be wordy and convoluted. I’ve read too much academic writing. I like shades of grey, qualifiers, complexity, nuance. I like to consider ideas from many perspectives. But convoluted ideas don’t necessarily require convoluted grammar and linguistic construction. They still need to be conveyed as directly and simply as possible. My instincts are to do the opposite, so I have to work to make it so.

I like precision of communication. I like that words are inherently imprecise. I like to play with the tension between the two.

When I write, I miss my sense of smell that has abandoned me after a lifetime of sinus issues and illnesses. That’s one less area of description for me to draw upon.

When I write, I tend to be abstract. I love ideas. I don’t think in detailed, concrete terms. Physical descriptions aren’t really my thing. They don’t stick in my memory, in the meanings I take from events and interactions. It’s the impressions, ideas, emotions, and insights that I remember. The exact specifics are extraneous. Which makes them difficult to write.

When I write, I can largely let myself get a flow and keep going, though I can’t entirely keep myself from skipping back to reread and making minor edits. Not enough to get stuck, just new ideas that have popped into my head about the old words I haven’t entirely moved on from.

When I write, I make regular use of the thesaurus.

When I write, I enjoy the feel of language. The rhythm and cadence. The way words can flow.

I think part of me wants to be a poet. My idea-centric, analytical mind grew up avoiding the form--as so many people do--so I don’t have a tool set to build from. But I have read much poetry in recent years that I find myself wanting to imitate.

When I write, I am never at a loss for words. Keeping things brief is my struggle. Most students, when assigned a page count for their work, have to work to stretch things out. Maybe cheat the font and margins a decimal place bigger. I’ve always been the opposite, trying to figure out how to cut any of my precious words I can’t stand to part with, cheating the decimals smaller.

So I have exceeded my time limit.

But other duties call, so now I must stop.


Going on Record as a Nut Job

A still life

As a skeptical librarian who holds verifiable facts in high esteem and has a fascination with the irrationality of the human brain, I generally scoff at conspiracy theories. Particularly in light of what I consider the silliness of the nonsense spouted by the right about President Obama and Hillary Clinton, I've tried very hard to make sure I'm not caught up in a filter bubble echo chamber of extreme, fake ideas about the current administration. So I have this thought that appeals to a side of me that I believe must surely be detached from reality, as much as it makes a certain kind of sense to me. I'm at best agnostic about the truth of it. But since the current administration is all about alternative takes on events and the head honcho is a spinner of tales, here's a story. Take it or leave it as you will.

It's hard to believe that Michael Flynn's resignation is a solitary act related to a solitary incident. It seems much more likely that he acted on orders and is now taking the fall in the hopes of stemming further investigation into events. Parts of the infamous dossier have been verified, and key players have refused to discuss it--which could possibly be an indication that they don't want to undermine an ongoing investigation they believe might bear fruit. I'm looking at a headline right now that reads Russia: The Scandal Trump Can't Shake. So, clearly, I'm not the only one who thinks something doesn't smell right about all of it.

But I don't really think it's about bedroom activities (or bathroom activities in the bedroom, if you prefer). I have no doubt in my belief that he sees his position as, first and foremost, a vehicle for advancing his business interests. That, more than anything else, is his top agenda. There's a way that ties into the Russian blackmail theories. He's surely, over the course of his career as a real estate magnate, done some illegal things. Things like bribing officials to get permits approved and other "greasing of the wheels" to eliminate red tape. He's also, I'm sure, found ways for his money to influence government officials to have them work to further his ends. That would surprise few people.

But government bureaucracy isn't the only power in the game. There's the competition, of course. And there's the underworld. The Russian mob, for instance, is very active in New York City, his base of operations. Now, just suppose for a minute that he's done business with that particular power. It's a matter of record he's done legitimate business with Russian interests, so it's not that much of a stretch to suppose he's done illegitimate business with shady Russian interests as well. Deals on the street that are mutually beneficial. Deals that could make him complicit in things like smuggling, drugs, extortion, sex workers, and the murderous fallout of such business. Not the primary actor, necessarily, but a partner who has aided the transactions. What if that's the nature of the blackmail material? That he's not worried about scandal, but jail?

So who am I to conjecture so? No one. My reality is as far removed from this as possible. I have no relevant expertise. I have done no investigation. I'm not even going to bother tracking down the things I've read that have sent my mind in this direction. Things like his flippant lack of concern that Putin is a killer because we've got killers too. Or that the last-minute leaks about the non-existent investigation into emails that were influential on the election came NYC police, NYC FBI agents, and NYC former mayors. Things that could make a pattern if other connecting items secretly exist. Things that make a good story. Because that's all I am, just a guy who loves fiction.

But what if this isn't?


"The Battle Is Fierce"

Here's one not mentioned in the parenting manuals: When, midway through changing from clothes to pajamas, your three-year-old curls around himself, looks down adoringly, and says, "I love you, penis."

Not long ago, I was looking through a chest my recently deceased mom had inherited from her parents. In it was a collection of precious personal artifacts. Legal documents like birth certificates and marriage licenses, but also childhood toys and memorabilia. One item was a book that must have been my grandpa's:

What a Young Man Ought to Know
by Sylvanus Stall, D. D.

Two apparent series titles are listed on the cover and one inside:
  • Purity and Truth
  • Self and Sex Series
  • Pure Books on Avoided Subjects
Copyright 1897

I grabbed it at the time as a curiousity, and have just taken a first look at it. I might have to give it a read sometime. I'm sure it would provide a combination of amusement, insight into the past, and interesting advice. It appears to offer a mix of encouragement to strict moral purity, acceptance that we are sexual creatures, frank talk about sex, health, and sexual health, relationship advice, and character advice.

The chapter titles:
I.  Equipment for Life.
II.  Personal Purity.
III.  Physical Weakness.
IV.  Evils to Be Shunned and Consequences to Be Dreaded.
V.  Evils to Be Shunned and Consequences to Be Dreaded. (Continued.)
VI.  Evils to Be Shunned and Consequences to Be Dreaded. (Continued.)
VII.  The Reproductive Organs--Their Purpose and Their Prostitution.
VIII.  The Right Relation to Women.
IX.  Marriage--A Divine Institution.
X.  Who Should Not Marry.
XI.  The Selection of a Wife.
XII.  Importance of Great Caution.
XIII.  Early and Late Marriage.
XIV.  Weddings.
XV.  Hindrances to Be Avoided.
XVI.  Helps to Be Used.
There is, for instance, a 20-page section on the topic of "emissions, or wet dreams" and tactics for avoiding them. And there are repeated exhortations to exercise, eat right, and sleep well. Sexually Transmitted Diseases get extensive coverage.

But it's not all morality and physicality. Paging through I noticed this bit:
You will need not only a wife, but you will need also a COMPANION. In such an alliance you should seek intelligence. A woman who is ignorant and stupid, or one who has simply learned to drum on the piano, to paint a few horrible pictures, and do a little embroidery, cannot properly be regarded as one suited for this important relation of life.
And this from the final chapter caught my children's librarian eye:
No young man or young woman can afford to read fiction before they are twenty-five years of age. There is too much that is indispensable for intelligence, for laying of foundation principles for study, for business, health and morals, that need to be read first. If fiction is begun before a correct taste is formed and foundation principles laid, the best books will never be read at all. The habit of reading rapidly for the simple sake of the story will destroy the power, and even the wish, to read thoughtfully and seriously. The power to concentrate thought will, as a consequence, never be acquired. A vitiated taste is the inevitable result. If it is important that the body should be fed upon the most nourishing food, the same is also true of that upon which the mind is to be fed.
Yes, it could be most interesting reading indeed.



Silence amounts to consent
Silence assumes support
Silence accepts the status quo

It was silence that authenticated the emperor’s imaginary new clothes

Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.
 ~ Charles de Gaulle

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
 ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Oppression can only survive through silence.
 ~ Carmen de Monteflores

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
 ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men.
 ~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox

What Psychology Teaches Us about Opposing an Unpopular President
Trump’s best hope is to convince opponents he’s more popular than he actually is.
Social scientists say that an “unpopular norm” exists when people perceive a view or behavior to have popular support when it is actually opposed by the majority. . . .

In a situation where the ruling minority asserts, falsely, that it represents the desires of the majority, what can politicians and citizens do to ensure that the true majority sentiment is represented?

Most critically, the majority position must consistently broadcast that theirs is the more popular view. The key factor driving unpopular norms is the misperception of public opinion. Wherever possible, reliable data on the true majority sentiment should be brought to the table and emphasized relentlessly. . . .

The true story of the public’s perception of Donald Trump is not one featuring an easily distracted nation accepting outrageous behavior, but instead of widespread rejection of an incoming president and his agenda.

Second, the majority must be deeply committed. . . .

In practical terms, this means not just maintaining one's views but also working to spread them through grassroots campaigns, contacting legislators, organizing for candidates and ballot initiatives, and engaging in effective protests and persuasive conversations with other citizens.

Additionally, the majority must never “move on” by assimilating to the reigning minority, thereby losing sight of the political injustice inherent in minority rule. . . .

People will change their opinions to align with what they perceive, rightly or wrongly, as the majority view. . . .

But unpopularity is the Trump regime's — indeed every unpopular regime's — greatest weakness. . . .



Sublimated Outrage at the Adult World

I think I may have just encountered an articulation of something I hadn't realized about my calling to be a librarian for children in particular and my love for many of the books written for them:

I wonder if the truer unity among children’s-book authors is sublimated outrage at the adult world. If they’re going to serve someone, it’s going to be children.

The quote comes near the end of a New Yorker article by Rivka Galchen about author-illustrator Mo Willems: Mo Willems's Funny Failures; with the subhead, How the author teaches young readers to confront problems and be resilient.

The quote reminds me of one from The Little Prince:
I have lived a great deal among grown-ups. I have seen them intimately, close at hand. And that hasn’t much improved my opinion of them.
The subhead reminds me of something I've previously quoted from Neil Gaiman about writing dark stories:
I think if you are protected from dark things then you have no protection of, knowledge of, or understanding of dark things when they show up. I think it is really important to show dark things to kids — and, in the showing, to also show that dark things can be beaten, that you have power. Tell them you can fight back, tell them you can win. Because you can — but you have to know that.

And for me, the thing that is so big and so important about the darkness is [that] it’s like in an inoculation… You are giving somebody darkness in a form that is not overwhelming — it’s understandable, they can envelop it, they can take it into themselves, they can cope with it.

And, it’s okay, it’s safe to tell you that story — as long as you tell them that you can be smart, and you can be brave, and you can be tricky, and you can be plucky, and you can keep going.
And, together, something I've previously quoted by Neil Gaiman about Terry Pratchett:
There is a fury to Terry Pratchett’s writing . . . The anger is always there, an engine that drives. . . . And that anger, it seems to me, is about Terry’s underlying sense of what is fair and what is not. It is that sense of fairness that underlies Terry’s work and his writing.

He will rage, as he leaves, against so many things: stupidity, injustice, human foolishness and shortsightedness, not just the dying of the light. And, hand in hand with the anger, like an angel and a demon walking into the sunset, there is love: for human beings, in all our fallibility; for treasured objects; for stories; and ultimately and in all things, love for human dignity.
Children are rarely given the credit they deserve. Are rarely given equal status as fully feeling, thinking, capable human beings. The best children's-book authors know this, understand it at an instinctive level, and their writing addresses those parts of children most often ignored by the adult world. They speak to children in a way that most others don't. They fully see and respect children.

Or, as Maurice Sendak has put it in a series of different quotes:
You cannot write for children . . . They're much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them.
In plain terms, a child is a complicated creature who can drive you crazy. There's a cruelty to childhood, there's an anger.
From their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, they continually cope with frustrations as best they can.
Children are willing to expose themselves to experiences. We aren't. Grownups always say they protect their children, but they're really protecting themselves. Besides, you can't protect children. They know everything.
The fuller context of the quote above, by the way:
I used to have a patchwork theory about the makers of children’s literature: that they were not so much people who spent a lot of time with kids as people who were still kids themselves. Among the evidence was that Beatrix Potter had no children, Maurice Sendak had no children, Margaret Wise Brown had no children, Tove Jansson had no children, and Dr. Seuss had no children. Even Willems began writing for children before he had a child. But what makes these adults so in touch with the distinct color and scale of the emotions of children?

I now have a new theory: Tove Jansson began her Moomin series during the Nazi occupation of Finland; Paddington Bear was modelled on the Jewish refugee children turning up alone in London train stations. Arnold Lobel, the creator of the Frog and Toad books, came out to his children as gay and died relatively young, from aids. I wonder if the truer unity among children’s-book authors is sublimated outrage at the adult world. If they’re going to serve someone, it’s going to be children.
Anyway, the article is about Mo Willems, and I learned a few things that make me like him all the more.

I was one of those people who immediately loved his first book, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. I've used it--and many of his other books--in storytime many times. For one storytime session a few years ago I included a different Elephant and Piggie book each week. Now that my kids are getting old enough, they're falling in love with his books, too (the three-year-old especially loves the "turnip-head" chant mentioned in the article). Willems has a particular talent for expressing emotion in simple, relatable terms.

About that Pigeon, by the way:
When the Willemses returned to New York, Cher began working as an assistant librarian at a school on the Upper East Side. She read the pigeon sketchbook to the kids there. (The pigeon petitions the reader directly—alternately with charm, with rage, with desperation, with bargaining—to let him do the thing that he never gets to do.) They loved it. “Cher said to me, ‘I think this is a kids’ book,’ ” Willems told me. “I said, ‘No, definitely not.’ ” But his agent, Marcia Wernick, eventually shopped it around. For two years, he said, “it was turned down everywhere. But the editors did say, again and again, that it was ‘unusual.’ ” (Wernick has saved some of the rejections, which include comments like “We’ve got a great character, but what does he do besides give quips?” and “I’d really like to see that pigeon drive the bus.”) “Finally, there was an editor who agreed that it was unusual, but she thought that was a good thing.” Alessandra Balzer, who acquired the book for Hyperion, now runs her own imprint, Balzer & Bray. “I loved it immediately,” she told me. “I loved the direct address to the kids, I loved the humor.” She bought it for what she describes as a “modest sum.”
“Honestly, I don’t think I could write another Pigeon book now.”


“He’s a monster! His wants are unbounded, he finds everything unjust, everything against him, he’s moody, he’s selfish. Of course, I identify with that—we all have some of that—but I’m glad that I can’t imagine writing him now. I’m happy to be less him. I’ve mellowed out. I’m merely pessimistic.”
The article is ultimately about the recent completion of his wildly popular series of books about Elephant and Piggie. I recently heard a colleague disparage them as entirely plotless, flat jokes that are a bunch of filler and a punchline. I was flabbergasted. She must not be reading the same books I am, because each story, while funny, is full of vivid expression and emotional resonance. Kids can relate to them. And, to the theme of this post, so can the author:
In the beginning, Gerald was either sad or anxious or discouraging, but he eventually developed some emotional resilience, which gave Piggie some space to be less than perennially sunny. Willems’s friends and family say that he is Gerald, and that Piggie represents his friends, his daughter, his wife—all the people around him who say that maybe things are better than they seem.
And yet, "What sets Willems’s books apart from most other children’s books is that they are very funny." Just as Terry Pratchett's books are full of humor. As children's author Sid Fleischman wrote in his biography of Mark Twain: “Joy was not the raw material of humor . . . The dark source was sorrow.” Willems, like the best of writers for children, isn't afraid to go to those dark places and draw from them. Because, by acknowledging them, he honors the basic injustice and outrage that is childhood.

From the Willems book I've used most in storytime, Leonardo, The Terrible Monster


Word Scribbles

“What is motivation?”

Asks ChrisBot,
Automatically generated
By the What Would I Say? app
From content I’ve previously shared.*

Everybody is looking for
A reason to be grumpy.
Or, everybody is looking for
Someone to blame for
The general sense of grumpiness
They feel.

In quantum mechanics,
Particles can exist in
More than one state
At the same time,
And are only locked down
When observed;
The observer impacts,
Maybe even determines,
The state.

Quantum computing
Relies on those
Simultaneous multiple states
To layer reality
Beyond the simple
Either-or binary option
Of traditional computers.

What are quantum emotions?

Aren't emotions inherently quantum?

ChrisBot has become
Including “ChrisBot”
In some of his statuses.

A new study suggests
The universe is a hologram.
“Holography is a
Huge leap forward
In the way we think about
The structure and creation
Of the universe,"
Researcher said.

An enormous crack
Just opened up
In the middle of
The Arizona Desert

It’s time to feed
Some new words
To work with.

The fissure is a
Surface expression
Of a larger open void
Underground, which
Ultimately is a result of
Desiccation due to
Aquifer drawdown from
Local populations
And agriculture.

A random collection of
Words and phrases
To pull from when
Creating random

Chimps beat up,
And then cannibalise
Their former tyrant.

Words and phrases
From my head,
My ears,
My eyes,
News headlines,
And assorted nonsense
I find before me.

Doomsday clock.


“A random collection
Of wealth is greater
Than winter.”

(In quotation marks
Because ChrisBot has
Already generated
That one.)

“The Oxford comma
Is applied to all
Works on earth,
To pleasure,
The life.”

Not sure the source:
“If you meet someone
Face-to-face and
They don’t
Hiss at you
And bite you,
Does that mean
You’re friends?”

Nor this:
“It is possible that we are rare,
Fleeting specks of awareness in
An unfeeling cosmic desert,
The only witnesses to its wonder.
It is also possible that we are living in
A universal sea of sentience,
Surrounded by ecstasy and strife
That is open to our influence.
Sensible beings that we are,
Both possibilities should worry us.”

Frozen buds
New life trapped in a casing of ice
A field of icicles

Shrouded in mist
Shrouded in mystery
Mystical mystagogue

Limited visibility

Frosted gravel pile



What is nothing?

Can I think about nothing?

*A Facebook app; these words will be cross-posted there.


Living in the Liebrary

"The problem with lies isn’t that they’re bad; it’s that they’ve got bad publicity. What they needed was a spokesman, a salesman. And now they’ve got the best one around—from Azwerp to Zelslow!"

"There’s no such place as Azwerp! Or Zelslow!"

"Not yet," replied Ersatz. "But the world is changing quickly. . . . Perhaps tomorrow there’ll be an Azwerp and a Zelslow. Perhaps they’ll be the same place."

"They can’t both be the same place, Ersatz! The simple rules of time and space dictate that—"

"You still don’t get it,” said Ersatz. “There aren’t any more rules. Anything’s possible now!"

"They’re just lies, Ersatz. There’s no truth to them. They don’t actually change anything."

"On the contrary, brother, they change everything."

"When we sold facts, I took no interest in them at all. But now that we have all these lies I can't help taking an interest in them because they're all so interesting. Especially the ones about me."

"You are a clever, handsome man, Mr. Mayor," said the first lion.

"See?" said the mayor, beaming. "None of the facts about me were like that!"

Not a quote: And who did he pick his first two fights with as President? The media and the intelligence community, two traditional sources of truth, information, and facts.

Facts from the Liebrary:

You are all geniuses.
Snowmen are made of snow and firemen are made of fire.
There are three days in a week and seven weeks in a minute.
George Washington liked to water-ski.
Queen Elizabeth could burp the alphabet.
Humans didn’t evolve; they hatched.
Socks are meant to be smelly.
You should keep your eyes open when you sneeze.
Toe jam tastes great with peanut butter.
Grown-ups know everything.
Lobsters write excellent poetry.
Zero is the biggest number.
The largest mammal in the world is the tangerine.
Henry the Eighth invented the bicycle.
Rhode Island is the largest continent.
Smoking gives you immortality.
Now is what happens after later.
All babies are born wearing tuxedos.
Approximately one-third of a television’s parts are edible.
The color yellow was originally called banana.
The opposite of yellow is good-bye.
Christopher Columbus invented the glow-in-the-dark yo-yo.

Quotes from: The Facttracker by Jason Carter Eaton.

Its self-description:
If you are reading this, you're a genius.

Is that true? Who knows! But it sounds good. So does:

This book is better than ice cream, television, and your birthday combined!

"The Facttracker" is full of such statements. Unfortunately, most of them are lies, which is odd, since Traakerfaxx is the town that produces all of the world's "facts."

So how can a story about a bizarre town with a weird name become

The greatest novel ever written?

Dinosaurs would help. Or maybe aliens. Alien dinosaurs would be dynamite! Alas, we have none of those. Here's what we "do" have: the Facttracker, who tracks all the facts in Traakerfaxx. The just small enough boy, who lost all his facts. And Ersatz, but the less said about him the better. And, of course, there are lots and lots of facts and lies, such as:

This book will make you good-looking and popular!

Was that a "fact" or a "lie"? For the answer, read on and encounter adventure, peril, and even more

Large, oversized words!
My review:
One opinion about The Facttracker:

Take a good portion of Lemony Snicket and add some Captain Underpants sensibility and plenty of Eaton's own flavors to get this mix of intellectual absurdity, all wielded to share an actual story with a definite point to make. This book is a lot of fun and I highly recommend it to 4th-6th grade readers and anyone else attracted to what follows.

A few facts about The Facttracker:

The table of contents takes 6 pages, as there are 50 chapters (plus chapters 2 1/2 and 2 3/4), many with rather long, convoluted titles like: The Answer to a Question That Wasn't Even Asked. And the Question Is This: What Were the Townspeople Up To?

The book opens with: A fictitious friend of mine once told me, "Everyone loves a good explosion." Sadly, he told this to me just moments before he himself exploded, but it was good advice nonetheless.

The protagonist is called the "just small enough boy": [He] was so small that he was almost too small. But not quite. He was just small enough.

Much of the book takes place in the Liebrary.

And one quote from The Facttracker:

The true test of a society isn't how many lies it has; it's how many it believes.