Written by on May 11, 2012

Grief. Hunger. Improv. Worms!

I recently had an email conversation with Karen Lauritsen, our Communications and Public Programs Coordinator, about what she’s reading, and a little about her work here. I hope to make this a semi-regular feature of Sensible Shoes: Readers of REK.

JK: Let’s start with a stereotypical library icebreaker: what are you reading? and what led you to pick up this book — friend’s recommendation, familiar author, arresting cover art, or?

KL: My favorite book I’ve read so far this year is The Long Goodbye. I think I read about it somewhere, maybe The New York Times. I often enjoy memoirs and have been interested in how our culture deals (or doesn’t) with grief, which is what that book is about. I also read Your Voice in My Head — a Good Reads checkout — which was just okay. That book got a lot of press in fashion magazines for some reason. My favorite book that I’ve read recently is Just Kids by Patti Smith. I was looking for something anti-establishment, artsy, immersive. It did me right.

Just last night I finished The Hunger Games. Kristen [Thorp, who works in Circulation] loaned the three books to me and with the movie out I wanted to get in on the action. It may be the first series that I’m able to finish, we’ll see. I didn’t make it past the first Twilight or Harry Potter. I read the first two in the Stieg Larsson series, but burned out after that, too.

Oh, and I’ve got a few non-fiction books going that I pick up intermittently. One is Hello, I’m Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity, which I like but isn’t super revelatory. And Hillary Clinton’s memoir which I’ve been chipping away at for about a year.

JK: Wow, you’ve got wide-ranging tastes! from grief to Hillary to Hunger Games! (What did you think of HG, by the way? So far I’ve resisted the pop culture tide on that one, despite a visit from Kristen, her copies of the 3 books in hand…)

KL: I liked HG. The author knows how to get you to care, which is good. I didn’t feel totally swept away like perhaps a teen fan would, but it was a compelling read. I did cry.

JK: Veering off a bit from grief and hunger, I know that you’re a graduate of the Conservatory Improv program at Second City LA. How did you get interested in the program? Is humor an important element for you in reading? And delving further into your background, did Second City prepare you to be a high school English teacher, or was it the other way around?

KL: The conservatory program at Second City was something I did after teaching. I had always wanted to try sketch comedy but kept delaying it for reasons I can’t even remember anymore. I miss improv sometimes, although it was never a lifestyle for me in the way it was for some. That said, I still have to be careful not to go into improv-mode as a default. It’s not always appropriate to heighten things to absurdity in real life, you know? But that impulse can be hard to resist, because it’s so fun!

Another book I’ve read recently is This is a Book by Demetri Martin. I love it; he’s so smart and his comedy is so good at revealing our ills in a thoughtful and sometimes even compassionate way. I don’t need comedy in my reading, but appreciate it when it’s there. I think it’s very, very hard to do well without being snarky, which is too easy and gets tiresome fast.

JK: Probably there’s REALLY no such thing as a “typical” day for you, with such a variety of projects going on, and a crowd of different things to report on. Which parts of your job are the most fun for you, and which are the most challenging? or are they the same things?

Any upcoming event or program you’re particularly excited to tell us about?

KL: This week I’ve been working with Patrick and Jordan on preparing Quentin Hardy’s talk [at the opening of the Data Studio on April 26] to share with the world via our blog. I love capturing and sharing the content that comes out of our events! It’s a way to show what Cal Poly and Kennedy Library offer the world. It’s both a fun process and a meaningful product.

Something else I enjoy is observing people at an event like Science Cafe. It’s a sweet fruit of my event-planning labor. There they are, sitting at a table with people they likely don’t know, from other disciplines, learning something new and having a good time. That’s pretty cool.

Speaking of which, our Science Cafe “finale” of the academic year is May 24 — Transformed! It’s about composting with worms. They will be delivered live to my house a few days before the event so it’s up to me to keep them alive for the demonstration. I’m interested in learning too, since I have a yard for the first time in my adult life and I’ve found myself getting into gardening.

As for a challenge, it’s a familiar one — time to do everything I want to get done!

Karen’s blog, Kennedy Library Out Loud, is a great place to learn about upcoming and past library events.

photo credits, from top:

Jordan Hooper
Alan Yeh [Karen shown with Erin Zamrzla, bookbinder, at April Science Cafe on Japanese bookbinding]

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