Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

Inciting Joy at Boston Bookfest

This past weekend, I attended the Boston Book Fest, a day of readings, discussions, and more.
While I enjoyed walking through Copley Square to visit the booths of various literary journals
and publishers, my favorite experience of the day was a panel session titled “How to Live:
Purpose, Joy, and Dash of Philosophy” with authors Ross Gay, Kieran Setiya, and Ellen Warner,
held in Old South Church.

Though I attended the session to hear Ross Gay speak about his new book Inciting Joy—I’ve
gifted Gay’s Book of Delights to many a family member or close friend, and have multiple
annotated volumes of his poetry on my bookshelf—I was pleasantly surprised by how much I
enjoyed the other speakers’ presentations, as the titles of their books had not originally piqued
my interest: Life is Hard: How Philosophy Can Help Us Find Our Way and The Second Half: Forty
Women Reveal Life After Fifty

My notes from the session almost read like a prose poem, though not one of Gay’s caliber:
“justice is not separate from self-interest — you always must invite guests — speak well of
people and love them — happiness as the warmth that people have for each other — riotous
this care, this caring.” Setiya spoke about studying philosophy to find a way to attend to
adversity and diminish the power of pain; Warner shared photos and wisdom from women,
some middle-aged, some older; Gay read from the introduction of Inciting Joy, where Sorrow,
personified, attends a dinner party, and joy is—fittingly, for the reading’s setting—near-Biblical,
calling it “the light that emanates from us when we help each other carry our sorrows.”

As I listened to these authors attend to the joy and pain of both themselves and of others, I felt
the soaring ceilings of Old South Church—its pews steeped in the smell of incense and the
perfume of church ladies, its gold leaf and filigree sharpened by the dusty light of
midday—form a sort of altar to language, a backdrop to and instrument for the practice of
cultivating joy, of caring for the self and for others. I wondered, How can I practice librarianship
as an act of ‘riotous care’? When I put a book like
Inciting Joy into the hands of a patron, or help
facilitate an event such as this, am I inviting joy into my work?

How can we infuse our work with warmth and compassion for others, our practice with radical
action—arguably the most “riotous” form of care?