Review: Leaving Mundania

Ever since the god-awful documentary The Dungeon Masters, I’ve been wary of journalistic investigations of gamer culture, and I had serious reservations about Lizzie Stark’s Leaving Mundania: Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role-Playing Games. Even though I had no pony in this race — I’ve never LARPed before, and still have little intention to — I don’t like seeing others’ harmless hobbies held up for ridicule.

Mercifully, Stark’s examination of the LARP world does no such thing, nor does it commit the opposite annoyance of inflating a recreational activity into some grandiose human endeavor (though, in her description of the high-concept art gaming of the Nordic LARP scene, she does come close, but with good reason). Stark presents the LARP world with a careful, measured hand, varied in its scope from self-conscious silliness to serious art, and all the while maintaining the consciousness that LARPers are real people with genuine human complications. Continue reading Review: Leaving Mundania

Great Library Ideas: The Idea Box

I’ve been on the lookout lately for great ideas being implemented by public libraries to help facilitate community-created content, interactivity, creative work spaces, and the like, and this one really struck a chord. In Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago, the library staff had the awesome idea of constructing a creative space for their patrons “to tinker, learn, and play.” This video highlights what they did with their idea box for National Poetry Month. Enjoy.

Review: The Magicians

With a 2009 publication date, The Magicians isn’t exactly the freshest title on the new releases pile. In fact, I’m not sure why I didn’t read this sooner – like its awkward protagonist, Quentin, I too have been completely sucked into imaginary worlds full of talking animals and the battle between good and evil, and as a children’s librarian with a healthy love of salty language, you’d think I would have dove headfirst into a book some reviewers were calling “a Harry Potter for grownups, but with sex and booze.”

For whatever reason I missed it, which makes it all the sweeter to read now.

Author Lev Grossman answers the “what if” that lives in the heart of every fantasy lover – “what if I could get out of this shitty, billboard-clogged, “real” world and into a place where magic is real and adventures await?”

But it turns out that “what if” is a dangerous question no matter which world you’re living in. Quentin, the morose high school math genius whose perspective frames Grossman’s homage to classic children’s fantasy lit, knows that he is always one failed magic trick away from being expelled from Brakebills, an elite college for magic. And yet he isn’t entirely in his own world, even though it is so Hogwartsian that Quentin and his friends make quidditch jokes. The real magic, Quentin still secretly feels, lives in Fillory and Further, a five book series written by a stodgy English bachelor in the 1930s. Continue reading Review: The Magicians