KJ Hannah Greenberg
and Marilyn Ackerman

Marilyn Ackerman
Inspiration piece

Of Books and Libraries
By KJ Hannah Greenberg

“MooMaw, tell me a story.”


“Tell me about libraries.”

“Well, I’ve long been something of an anorak.”

“A parka?”

“No, a ‘boring,’ nonsocial person.”


“I like my garden and my violin. I was never interested on clubs, except for youth orchestra.”

“Oh! Tell me about books. Mommy has three of them but keeps them locked in her cabinet.”

“Books are worlds. Through them I discovered aesthetics, the artistic dimension of invention; technique, the skill dimension of discourse; and ethics, the moral dimension of creativity.”

“So you’re a professor to make other people read books?”

“Something like that.”

“Are yours locked away?”

“Heavens! Of course not! Did you never notice this shelf?”

“So many books, MooMaw!”

“Would you like to read one?”

“Could I touch it?”

“Sure. Reading trumps mental brumation, always.”


“Mental torpor, lack of critical thinking, missing assessment skills. You must read and read and then read some more.”

“Can I really touch it?”



“Did you know that prescriptive ethical theories and descriptive ethical theories have existed for more than a millennium but were first legitimized in the Twentieth Century?”

“MooMaw, I don’t think you teach gardening or violin.”

“Nope. Philosophy.”

“That won’t help me with fractions. Also, your words are too long”


“Explain this one to me—it’s in this book’s title—‘incommensurabilities.’”

“That means ‘things that don’t match.’”

“Like your socks?”

“Well, they sort of match. They’re the same fabric and length, just different colors.”

“Like my hair and yours?”

“Actually, I was a ginger before you were born.”

“I made your hair change color?”

“No. Hair color changes when people get old.”

“So what’s the word mean?”

“‘Not matching per causality.’ ‘Causality’ is about intent and actualization.”

“Your words really are too big for me. Do you like this book?”

“Look at the cover, again, I wrote it. I’ll try to explain. That bike that you wanted but didn’t buy because your allowance wasn’t enough is a simple example of an incommensurability.”

“Whatever, MooMaw. Do you have an easier book? Another one that I can touch?”

“Absolutely. Take this one.”

“Thanks. I like holding them. I like sniffing them, too. Why doesn’t Mommy let me touch hers?”

“They make her sad. One of hers, she wrote. Another one of hers, her dead twin wrote. The third one of hers, your PopPops wrote.”

“Mommy’s still alive even if Auntie and PopPops are dead.”

“Another case of causality. Anyway, you would’ve liked libraries. Imagine a building filled with room upon room of ceiling-high bookshelves.”

“Not possible. Hardly anyone has books.”

“Libraries belonged to everyone…”

“This one’s called Grimms’ Fairy Tales.”

“It’s scary.”

“More than incommensurabilities?”


“What if you were a kid who couldn’t reach high shelves?”

“There were ladders. Better, each library had a room with low shelves. That room for special for children.”

“Children had their own book room? Was your book there? PopPops? Mom’s? Aunties?

“No. University books didn’t sit in children’s library rooms.”

“What sat there?”

“Books about dolphins, friendships, rockets, dragons, families, daffodils, and kites. What’s more libraries provided an hour, at least once a week, when a librarian, meaning, a person working at the library, would read to children.”

“Did they read Grimm?”

“Yes, and other frightening tales.”

“Wow! Do you like being a professor? Did PopPops? Mommy? Auntie? Why did Mommy quit?”

Mommy became very sad when Auntie died.”

“ I don’t want to be a professor. I want to be an ear, nose, and throat doctor. I know the word for that; ‘otolaryngologist.’ Did PopPops help you with gardening or violin? Did he teach them to Mommy or Auntie?”

“PopPops taught math. I met him when we both worked at a university. He didn’t like digging in the dirt or practicing music. He did teach Mommy and Auntie had to dance with numbers.”

“Like this?” (she spins).

“Not exactly.”

“So, did Mommy or Auntie teach math? Philosophy?

“No and nope. Mommy taught literature, she taught about books.”

“Why not about gardening? She loves her roses and Lily of the Valley. I can pick her roses but not her Lily of the Valley. Mommy says they’re poisonous.”

“They are. Please never touch them.”

“Was Auntie a professor, too?”

“No, she was a cattle rancher. She fell in love with a cowboy, whom she then married. After their wedding, she moved to his farm.”

“Did she have books? Do you still know her husband?”

“He remarried. The had no children, so he saw no reason to keep in touch with Mommy, PopPops, and me.”

“That’s sad.”


“Will you read some of Grimm to me? I know how to read but I like hearing your voice. Afterwards, can we bake chicken potpies and pick some of the edible flowers in your garden?”

“I don’t see why not.”

“Moomaw, do you still play your violin?”

“Of course!”

“Will you play some songs for me after we pick the flowers? Music helps me with spooky things. I want you to read Grimm but I don’t want to be very scared.”


“When we make the potpies, will you tell me more about libraries?”

“Yes. Not all goodness can be digitalized.”


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