Library News Blog
CUNY is building an institutional repository, CUNY Academic Works, dedicated to collecting and providing free access to the research, scholarship and creative work of the University. Faculty are encouraged to post their works here. Details of publishers’ self-archiving policies may be found on the SHERPA-RoMEO or in your publisher’s contract. In service to CUNY’s mission as a public university, content in Academic Works is freely available to all.
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Posted Wednesday, May 6, 2015 - 11:27am
The Lloyd Sealy Library now provides access to the IEEE Xplore® Digital Library.
IEEE Xplore® provides full text access to high quality technical literature in all areas including computer science and information technology. It contains more than 3 million full-text articles and documents, from IEEE journals, transactions, magazines, letters, conference proceedings, standards and IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) publications.
Powerful search tools help you find the most relevant research quickly by title, author, abstract, affiliation and content type such as leading industry standards. A proven resource for computer science students. Some of the top searched terms are: cloud computing, image processing, data mining, and network security.
IEEE, a not for profit organization, is the world’s leading professional association for the advancement of technology. It publishes 170 journals and magazines each year and sponsors more than 1,200 annual conferences globally. Every month, IEEE adds more than 20,000 new documents including: more than 4,000 journal articles, more than 15,000 new conference papers, and over 40 new and revised standards.
Posted Friday, May 1, 2015 - 3:57pm
The Lloyd Sealy Library has a free trial of PsycTESTS, a database from the American Psychological Association. This database of psychology testing tools is useful alongside our other APA resources, like PsycINFO and PsycBOOKS.
More information from PsycTESTS:
PsycTESTS is a rapidly expanding database of measurement and instrumentation tools in the field of psychology. It is an authoritative source of structured information about various questionnaires, scales, assessment measures, personality tests, and rating systems, and while focused on contemporary instances of test use, has coverage that spans more than a century. PsycTESTS provides access to thousands of actual instruments, most of which are available for immediate download and use in teaching and research.
- More than 23,000 test records
- Over 16,000 actual instruments
- Updated monthly
- Coverage of tests dating back as far as 1896
- Perfectly complements the full suite of resources from the APA
What do you think of PsycTESTS? Send any feedback to Prof. Maureen Richards, Electronic Resources Librarian.
Posted Friday, April 24, 2015 - 5:06pm
April 12–18 is National Library Week 2015. All kinds of libraries celebrate—government, academic, public, school, and specialized. This year’s chairperson for the week is novelist David Baldacci, (The Collectors, First Family, The Escape, Memory Man), and this year’s theme is Unlimited Possibilities @ Your Library. We celebrate today’s libraries; they’re books and much more. Libraries are places of creativity, places where people meet to share their experiences, places to do research, to develop a hobby or a new interest, to use the internet, to get help with resumes and test-taking, places to pursue directions you never thought of taking. Libraries offer access to the services, tools, and technology essential to the economic and cultural lives of our communities.
What have you accomplished with the help of John Jay’s library and librarians? Did you research and write your term paper? Did you print it out in the library lab? Did you access library databases from home? Did you email, text, or call in a question? Did you find a reserve reading? Is the Library your everyday place for quiet study? Did you come upon a great new idea just by ruminating or contemplating? Let us in on your library experiences by tweeting to us at @johnjaylibrary!
Posted Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 10:46am
Do you have a Library barcode sticker? All John Jay students & faculty should have one. The Library barcode sticker belongs on the back of your John Jay ID card.
Reasons to get a Library barcode sticker:
- You can only check out & renew books from the Library if you have one!
- It's also your ticket to more OneSearch results, so you'll be able to access more articles, ebooks, and more.
- If there's a problem with your usual login for library databases, you can use your barcode as a backup.
How do I get a Library barcode sticker?
Come to the Library and ask at the front desk (Circulation Desk). We'll happily give you a sticker and start up your Library account.
Online students: you can get a Library barcode sticker, too! Don't have a John Jay ID card? The next time you're on the John Jay campus, ask for your ID card at Public Safety.
Questions? Call us at 212-237-8246.
Posted Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - 11:46am
From the announcement emailed to the campus community:
Last year, seven students won cash prizes of $500 to $3,000 in the John Jay-Rubin Museum Writing Competition. This year, we are giving away $7,000 in total prizes. Now YOU could win up to $3,000 for writing a winning essay!
John Jay College and the Rubin Museum of Art are happy to announce the 4th annual John Jay College-Rubin Museum of Art Writing Competition.
Want to know more? You are invited to attend on-campus informational sessions during Community Hour! Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- February 23rd: Info session for students (room 620 Haaren Hall 1:45-2:35 pm)
- March 2nd: Final info session for students (room 620 Haaren Hall 1:45-2:35 pm)
I. Who May Enter:
The contest is open to all undergraduate students who are in good standing, full-time or part-time, at John Jay on the final date for submission.
Exceptions: employees and affiliates of the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation or the Rubin Museum and members of their immediate families shall be ineligible.
II. Topic of the Prize Essay
Choose a work or set of works of art from the collection of the Rubin Museum. Write an essay about the work (or those works) that explores how the piece or pieces define or express the idea of justice. As John Jay commences its 50th anniversary celebrations, it may be useful to reflect on our history as a college and a force for social change as you come up with the concept for your essay topic. Your essay may consider any of a wide range of issues, including but not limited to: justice as it relates to retribution and punishment; justice as it relates to death; justice as it relates to the possible differences between what gods and human beings consider fair; justice as it relates to violence and non-violence.
Psst... The Library has an online exhibit with helpful resources!
III. Submission & Due Date
In order to be considered an essay must be typewritten and submitted in hard copy. No e-mailed or faxed entries will be considered. The essay must be between 1000 and 3000 words long.
Each student entering an essay must submit five copies of the essay to the Office of Fellowship & Scholarship Opportunities by no later than 5:00pm on April 1st, 2015. The first copy of the essay must be accompanied by a detachable title page bearing the name of the student and the last four digits of his/her Social Security Number. The remaining pages of all copies of the submission must include the last four digits of the Social Security Number and no other identifying information. The Office of Fellowship & Scholarship Opportunities will accept submissions from February 9th through April 1st. Winning essays will be selected by April 13th, with celebration to follow at John Jay’s Research and Creativity Week (beginning on April 27th).
IV. Getting to Know the Rubin Museum of Art
Visiting the Museum is required. Last year’s winners found visits to the museum to be essential to their understanding of the collections and the piece they chose to write about for the essay. This makes sense as the museum is full of helpful staff and educators, and is in tune with our mission of “Educating for Justice.” Encourage your students to make the time to go if they hope to win.
The Rubin Museum offers free admission during regular hours for John Jay College students, faculty, and staff. The museum also has vast resources about exhibitions and Himalayan art and culture available online and on iTunesU. As we experienced great results in terms of attendance, interest and then awareness of the museum in years past, we plan to work with our Rubin Educational Partnership staff (Laura Lombard and her team) to conduct John Jay student tours at the museum (at least two weeks advance notice for reservations) and “Get to Know the Rubin Museum” sessions on campus for students and faculty in February & March.
The Rubin Museum of Art is located at 150 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011.
Psst... The Library has an online exhibit with helpful resources!
V. Selection of Award Recipient
The essays will be reviewed by a Faculty and Administrator committee at John Jay, which shall then announce the winner of the Prize.The names of the winners will be published in the campus publication @John Jay and on the John Jay website. Where scheduling allows, the winners of the Prize(s) will be given an opportunity to showcase/present their work as a part of John Jay’s 2015 Research & Creativity Week.
The Rubin Essay Award shall consist of a certificate, a one-year complimentary pass to the Rubin Museum, and a cash award to be underwritten by the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation:
- 1st prize: $3,000
- 2nd prize: $2,000
- 3rd prize: $1,000
- 2 Special Mention Prizes: $500 each
Awardee’s prizes shall be used in part to cover tuition and other academic expenses. If an awardee owes tuition fees, the award amount will be used to cover those fees first. The remaining funds are disbursed to the awardee to be used at his/her discretion. (Exception: If an awardee is a graduating senior with all tuition fees paid, then full funds go to awardee for use as he/she sees fit.)
Check your email for the competition announcement for an attached guide to certain exhibits in the museum that may help you to think about its collections and prepare you to enter the writing competition. Please remember that visiting the museum is a requirement to win. The museum is full of helpful staff and educators, and is in tune with our mission of “Educating for Justice.” To support your visits to the museum and writing of the essay, the college will invite Rubin Museum educators to campus throughout February & early March during Community Hour. Look for additional emails regarding these sessions in your inbox. For now, prepare for an engaging and stimulating experience with Art and Justice!
We look forward to congratulating you when you win!
Questions? Please contact the Program Manager, Elizabeth Kaylor.
Posted Thursday, February 19, 2015 - 11:58am
Looking for short but authoritative introductions to a range of subjects in the arts and humanities, law, medicine and health, science and mathematics or the social sciences? This Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press may be the solution you were looking for. The Lloyd Sealy Library already provides access to many of these titles, in print or electronically, but now you have the opportunity to explore the full collection.
Posted Tuesday, February 3, 2015 - 5:45pm
Provides primary and secondary materials across multiple media formats and content types for each selected event, including Armenia, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, Darfur, and more than 30 additional subjects. Resources for each topic guide users through the full scope of the event, from the historical context that made such violations possible through the international response, prosecution of perpetrators, and steps toward rebuilding." This database includes over 75,000 pages of text and 150 hours of video.
Be sure to use the unique interface tools to search the collection by people discussed, places discussed, organizations or by academic disciplines ranging from politics to art.
You can also access Human Rights Studies Online from the list of databases by title on the library's homepage.
Posted Monday, February 2, 2015 - 12:39pm
With the release on Dec. 3, 2014 of the so-called “Torture Report” by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, many questions have arisen about how the CIA treats detainees in its secret prisons. The 6,700-page report is an indictment of the CIA in many respects, faulting the agency for utilizing brutal interrogation techniques as well as misleading Congress and the White House about their effectiveness, which the CIA denies. The controversy about human rights abuses and CIA oversight is ongoing.
As we grapple with fallout from the report, reading through books that touch on its topics will guide us through the history of detainment and torture, help us understand strategies used in the War on Terror, and give us access to different perspectives.
Take a look at the "Understanding the Torture Report" exhibit on the Library's first floor, at the bottom of the staircase in the Niederhoffer Lounge.
Recommended reading & watching
- The report
- About torture
- About human rights
- About the American torture debate
- About the CIA
- Research resources
The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World
By Scarry, E. (1987). Stacks (BJ1409 .S35 1987)
Part philosophical meditation, part cultural critique, this work explores the nature of physical suffering. Elaine Scarry bases her study on a wide range of sources: literature and art, medical case histories, documents on torture compiled by Amnesty International, legal transcripts of personal injury trials, and military and strategic writings by such figures as Clausewitz, Churchill, Liddell Hart, and Henry Kissinger. Scarry begins with the fact of pain's inexpressibility. Not only is physical pain difficult to describe in words, it also actively destroys language, reducing sufferers in the most extreme cases to an inarticulate state of cries and moans. Scarry goes on to analyse the political ramifications of deliberately inflicted pain, specifically in the cases of warfare and torture, and she demonstrates how political regimes use the power of physical pain to attack and break down the sufferer's sense of self. Finally she turns to examples of artistic and cultural activity; actions achieved in the face of pain and difficulty.—Publisher's description
The History of Torture
By Innes, B. (1998). Reference (HV8593 .I55 1998)
However repugnant the practice of torture seems to us today, it was legal for at least 3,000 years, and formed a part of most legal codes in Europe and the Far East. This book tells the history of torture from its origins to the present day. —Publisher’s description
The History of Torture
By Mannix, D. (2003). Stacks (HV8593 .M36 2003)
Covers changes in torture practices, and the theories and techniques of torturers from pre-history to the modern era.—Torture subject guide
Is Torture Ever Justified?
By Head, T. (2005). Stacks (HV8593 .I75 2005)
Contains brief essays that present contrasting arguments on topics such as whether the United States military should obey the Geneva Conventions, or whether torture is justifiable.—Torture subject guide
Torture: A Collection
By Levinson, S. (2004). Stacks (HV8593 .T662 2004)
While the legal prohibition on torture is among the most absolute—its status is akin to slavery and genocide in international law—many of the prominent lawyers, philosophers, political scientists and other thinkers contributing to this provocative yet sober collection acknowledge that torture can be an acceptable option in an extreme situation, such as the interrogation of a captured terrorist who has knowledge of a "ticking bomb." Authors grapple with whether the moral legitimacy of torture in extreme cases should receive legal sanction, or whether a disjunction between law and morality is preferable. —Publishers Weekly
Understanding Torture: Law, Violence, and Political Identity
By Parry, J. (2010). Stacks (K5304 .P37 2010). Also available as an ebook
Prohibiting torture will not end it. In Understanding Torture, John T. Parry explains that torture is already a normal part of the state coercive apparatus. Torture is about dominating the victim for a variety of purposes, including public order; control of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities; and—critically—domination for the sake of domination. Seen in this way, Abu Ghraib sits on a continuum with contemporary police violence in U.S. cities; violent repression of racial minorities throughout U.S. history; and the exercise of power in a variety of political, social, and interpersonal contacts.—Publisher's description
Confronting Evils: Terrorism, Torture, Genocide
By Card, C. (2010). Stacks (BJ1401 .C293 2010). Also available as an ebook
In this contribution to philosophical ethics, Claudia Card redefines evil as a secular concept and focusing on the inexcusability—rather than the culpability—of atrocities. Card examines the tension between responding to evils and preserving humanitarian values. This stimulating and often provocative book contends that understanding the evils in terrorism, torture and genocide enables us to recognize similar evils in everyday life: daily life under oppressive regimes and in racist environments; violence against women, including in the home; violence and executions in prisons; hate crimes; and violence against animals.—Publisher's description
Getting Away With Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees
By Brody, R. (Human Rights Watch). (2011). Stacks (HV8599 .U6 B76 2011). Also available as an ebook
This report combines past Human Rights Watch reporting with more recently available information, analyzing this information in the context of US and international law. The report concludes that considerable evidence exists to warrant criminal investigations against four senior US officials: former President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and CIA Director George Tenet. Human Rights Watch calls for criminal investigations into their roles, and those of lawyers involved in the Justice Department memos authorizing unlawful treatment of detainees.—Human Rights Watch description
Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention
By Mariner, J. & Sifton, J. (Human Rights Watch). (2007). Available as an online report (PDF)
This 50-page report contains a detailed description of a secret CIA prison from a Palestinian former detainee who was released from custody. The report provides the most comprehensive account to date of life in a secret CIA prison, as well as information regarding 38 possible detainees. The report explains that these prisoners’ treatment by the CIA constitutes enforced disappearance, a practice that is absolutely prohibited under international law. —Human Rights Watch
Ghosts of Abu Ghraib
2008. Media Reserve (DVD-724)
Interviews with perpetrators, witnesses, and victims examining the abuses that occurred in the fall of 2003 at the notorious Iraqi prison. Probes the psychology of how typical American men and women came to commit these atrocious acts. —Catalog description
This Side of Silence Torture, Human Rights, and the Recognition of Cruelty
By Kelly, T. (2012). Stacks (HV8599 .G8 K45 2012). Also available as an ebook
This Side of Silence approaches the problem of torture in an unconventional and illuminating way. Human rights scholars and students will relish its clarity and insightfulness. As for human rights campaigners, they will find in it a warning about the inherent limitations of the legal process and thus an invitation to think more deeply and imaginatively about when and how to use legal means in order to oppose the blight of torture and, indeed, other injustices too.—Human Rights Quarterly
Torture: Does It Make Us Safer? Is It Ever OK?: A Human Rights Perspective
By Roth, K., Worden, Minky (eds). (2005). Stacks (HV8593 .T6623 2005)
A collection of essays that examine state-sponsored torture in the context of international law. Essay covers topics ranging from the history of torture, torture and terrorism, and torture in Latin America.—Torture subject guide
Richly told and uniquely heartrending, this book collects personal narratives of Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Egypt, India, and Palestine who were racially profiled, detained indefinitely, and mistreated following the September 11 attacks. From descriptions of physical abuse at the hands of American prison employees to a harrowing account of extraordinary rendition and torture in Egypt, these powerful stories will inspire both empathy and outrage. Exploring themes of globalization and ethnic tension in the context of the global war on terror, Irum Shiekh here provides a space for former detainees to tell their stories and reveal the human cost of suspending civil liberties after a wartime emergency.—Catalog description
Covers the prohibition of torture under international and United States law; interrogation techniques; the torture-enabling policy and its trickle-down effects; the practice of "extraordinary rendition" and the use of "black sites" by the CIA; responsibility: political, legal, and ethical considerations; and the Obama administration's actions January 2009-April 2010. —Table of contents
By McCoy, A. (2006). Stacks (HV8599 .U6 M33 2006)
In this revelatory account of the CIA's secret fifty-years effort to develop new forms of torture, historian Alfred W. McCoy uncovers the deep, disturbing roots of recent scandals at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Far from aberrations, as the White House has claimed. A Question of Torture shows that these abuses are the product of a long-standing covert program of interrogation.—Publisher's description
By Khalili, L. (2013). Stacks (U241 .K43 2013). Also available as an ebook
Winner of the 2013 Susan Strange Book Prize. Winner of the 2013 IPS Section Book Award, sponsored by the ISA International Political Sociology Section. Khalili investigates the two major liberal counterinsurgencies of our day: Israeli occupation of Palestine and the U.S. War on Terror. In rich detail, the book investigates Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, CIA black sites, the Khiam Prison, and Gaza, among others, and links them to a history of colonial counterinsurgencies. Ultimately, Khalili confirms that as tactics of counterinsurgency have been rendered more "humane," they have also increasingly encouraged policymakers to willingly choose to wage wars.—Publisher’s description
By Wagstaff, R. (2014). Stacks (K5437 .W34 2014)
Dr. Robert H. Wagstaff documents President George W. Bush's and Prime Minister Tony Blair's responses to 9/11, alleging that they failed to protect the human rights of individuals suspected of terrorist activity. New legal paradigms for addressing terrorism are shown to be normatively invalid, illegal, unconstitutional, counter-productive, and in conflict with the Rule of Law. —Publisher’s description
By McCoy, A. (2012). Stacks (HV8599 .U6 M34 2012). Also available as an ebook
Many Americans have condemned the “enhanced interrogation” techniques used in the War on Terror as a transgression of human rights. But the United States has done almost nothing to prosecute past abuses or prevent future violations. Tracing this knotty contradiction from the 1950s to the present, historian Alfred W. McCoy probes the political and cultural dynamics that have made impunity for torture a bipartisan policy of the U.S. government.—Publisher’s description
By Greenberg, K. (ed). (2006). Stacks (JC599 .U5 T665 2006)
Covers arguments from legislators, human rights advocates, and others who are for or against the use of torture in the War on Terror.—Torture subject guide
America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East
By Wilford, H. (2013). Stacks (DS63.2 .U5 W49 2013)
From the 9/11 attacks to waterboarding to drone strikes, relations between the United States and the Middle East seem caught in a downward spiral. And all too often, the Central Intelligence Agency has made the situation worse. But this crisis was not a historical inevitability—far from it. Indeed, the earliest generation of CIA operatives was actually the region's staunchest western ally. In America's Great Game, celebrated intelligence historian Hugh Wilford reveals the surprising history of the CIA's pro-Arab operations in the 1940s and 50s by tracing the work of the agency's three most influential-and colorful-officers in the Middle East.—Catalog description
A former clandestine agent specializing in the Middle East, Mahle begins with September 11th, but the bulk of her work recounts the CIA's involvement in such low watermarks of American intelligence as the Iran-Contra and the Ames affairs, and what she says have been their the devastating internal consequences. This is not just a memoir; Mahle joined the agency in 1988, and she pings back and forth in time, covering events and periods with which she was not directly involved. She decries what she characterizes as indiscriminate Congressional investigations, as well as political pressures to tailor conclusions to the biases of superiors. Both have led, she says, to demoralization and to a serious reduction in the CIA's overall capabilities. —Publishers Weekly
This report is the most comprehensive account yet assembled of the human rights abuses associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations. It details for the first time the number of known victims, and lists the foreign governments that participated in these operations. It shows that responsibility for the abuses lies not only with the United States but with dozens of foreign governments that were complicit. More than 10 years after the 2001 attacks, this report makes it unequivocally clear that the time has come for the United States and its partners to definitively repudiate these illegal practices and secure accountability for the associated human rights abuses.—Catalog description
Winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction. Here is the hidden history of the CIA: why 11 presidents and three generations of CIA officers have been unable to understand the world; why nearly every CIA director has left the agency in worse shape than he found it; and how these failures have profoundly jeopardized our national security. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Weiner offers the first definitive history of the CIA, based on more than 50,000 documents, primarily from the archives of the CIA itself, and hundreds of interviews with CIA veterans, including ten Directors of Central Intelligence.—Publisher description.
Philip Mudd served as Deputy Director of the Counterterrorist Center at the CIA and later as Deputy Director of the National Security Branch at the FBI. Takedown sheds light on the inner workings of the intelligence community during the global counterterror campaign. As a participant in and a witness to key strategic initiatives—including the hunt for Osama bin Laden and efforts to displace the Taliban—Mudd offers an insider's perspective on the relationships between the White House, the State Department, and national security agencies before and after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Through telling vignettes, Mudd reveals how intelligence analysts understood and evaluated potential dangers and communicated them to political leaders.—Publisher’s description
A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May 2011.—Catalog description
Through the Library, you have access to a great deal of articles, journals, newspapers, encyclopedias, streaming films, and more. Here are a few that may be helpful in following and understanding the Torture Report. You can access these from the Library homepage.
Torture subject guide: Written by Profs. Karen Okamoto and Ellen Belcher, librarians here at John Jay, to guide your research on the topic of torture. Includes a special section on the CIA “Torture Report.”
Opposing Viewpoints in Context: Read through many perspectives on certain controversial topics, including torture. The viewpoints cite primary sources and link to other online resources. Library database.
Criminal Justice Abstracts: Scholarly articles and annotations of books and book chapters in criminal justice from 1968 to the present. Library database.
CQ Researcher Plus Archive: Explores a single hot issue in the news in depth each week. Look for these reports: Closing Guantánamo (2009/2011), Torture Debate (2007), Torture (2003), and Treatment of Detainees (2006). Library database.
PsycInfo: Much of the news reports surrounding the Torture Report mention that the CIA hired psychologists to devise means of interrogation. Read more about what published psychologists say about torture and interrogation at our go-to resource for psychology information. Library database.
Published International Literature On Traumatic Stress (PILOTS): Covers articles related to traumatic stress and other mental-health conditions resulting from traumatic events, including torture. Library database.
Compiled by Robin Davis with help from Ellen Belcher and Karen Okamoto
Posted Tuesday, December 16, 2014 - 3:59pm
Wherein faculty share a favorite book with the rest of us….
Chitra Raghavan, professor in the Psychology Department & Director of the BA/MA Program, recommends Beyond Black and Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel. (Holt, 2005 & 2003). On order at the John Jay Library.
I’ve been reading Hilary Mantel’s non-historical books recently, and I am enjoying how dark, disturbed, and psychologically perverse she is. Right before school started, I finished Beyond Black, which is literary fiction that doesn’t fit into any subgenre easily. Allison, a professional psychic who is tormented by malicious spirits hires Colette, an angry failed event planner, to manage her career. (It’s worth noting that Mantel writes about her struggle with mental illness and ghosts in Giving Up the Ghost, a memoir). Over time, shown in great slow detail (sometimes too slow), their co-dependency becomes poisonous. Alison—self-absorbed yet fragile—seems never to notice that Colette might exist outside of her needs. Colette, watching her youth and sexual possibilities evaporate as they hustle from sleazy psychic fair to psychic fair, becomes angrier and more abusive of her employer. This is not a novel of action—much of the story takes place in repeating details— it’s a novel about damaged internal landscapes and the struggle for survival. Although sometimes disagreeable to read, the subtle details make the book a quiet masterpiece. The scenes of Allison overeating unhealthily make the reader want to scream and intervene in some way other than Colette’s increasing disgust and mockery. When Allison yearns again to know who fathered her, you feel like jumping into the pages of the book to tell her to just move away, forget the whole thing, and accept her anonymity so she can move on. And as you start encountering the almost incidental flashbacks of her childhood (her mother is obliquely referred to as a not-very-successful prostitute with numerous abusive clients, at least one of whom rapes the pre-adolescent Allison), each tiny episode halts the present for a moment followed by a painful moment of reader understanding. Although ultimately, Mantel never tells us if the whole psychic enterprise is imagined by Allison, whose distorted memories of abuse and associated ghosts intermingle with more “legitimate” spirits, this is not a book about childhood abuse or surviving abuse. It’s an unforgiving diary about two lonely alienated women and their failure to find intimacy.
Victoria Bond, professor in the English Department, recommends NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (Morrow, 2013) and The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco, 2013). On order at the John Jay Library.
The fiction I read is often a direct reflection of the fiction I am trying to write. Since I have spent the past few years working on a gothic/ghost story mash-up, I’ve read a ton of horror novels of every shape and size. Probably the longest and a favorite was the vampire saga The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, set in Princeton, New Jersey at the turn of the 20th century. However, the last novel that deeply touched me in addition to being instructive as to genre and craft was Joe Hill’s horror thriller NOS4A2. The title refers to the license plate of the novel’s villain, a vampire-like kidnapper named Charlie Manx who literally rides the roads of the unconscious mind in his vintage Rolls Royce. The title is also a play on the classic vampire film Nosferatu. Seductive and enigmatic though the villain may be, it was the portrayal of the motorcycle-riding mother and children’s book author Vic McQueen who is the heroine of the novel that got under my skin and emotionally needled me in a productive and painful way. I have not read another book that made me consider so fully what exactly it means to be an artist and a mother and a hurt soul. In fact, I’m eight months pregnant now, and I’m not sure I would be if Hill, son of the author Stephen King, hadn’t given me a window into these issues that at once riveted me as a reader at the same time it encouraged me to take long, hard looks in the mirror as a woman.
Comments solicited by Janice Dunham
Posted Monday, December 15, 2014 - 1:56pm