Archive | December, 2009

Packing Light

20 Dec

I’m Toronto-bound today, and I have unrealistic expectations about how much I’ll be able to read during my holiday. 

Speaking of Canada, I have a guest post up today at Farm Lane Books about Canada Reads. As you can see, I’m kicking things off with Good to a Fault.

Wanted: One Perfect Comfort Read

15 Dec

I’d like to thank Rachel at Book Snob for reviewing L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle and reminding me of one of my all-time favourite comfort reads. She also gave me a little hat tip in her post because I commented on the book’s poetic justice perfection: “Everything you want to happen, happens.”

I wasn’t kidding – You’ll find yourself punching the air or doing little victory dances as wallflower heroine Valancy gets hers in the end. I have an old McClelland and Stewart copy at home-home (that means Saskatchewan, just one home means Toronto, and London is still not-quite home), but won’t have access to it for another year or so. Where to get ahold of it in London?

In My Eco-Friendly Tote Bag This Week

8 Dec

This is what I’m reading right now. Just some book porn for y’all.

Speaking of “y’all,” I’m still wrapping my head around the dialect in this thing. day=don’t, cor=can’t, yoom=you’re. It reminds me of reading a fantasy book, where I have to remind myself of the made-up words as I go along. Ruby’s Spoon actually does have its fair share of magic, so I think it works.

Best Buds and Thesauri

8 Dec

In my first post here, I wondered: “Does Margaret Atwood ever use to find a cracker-jack synonym?”

I was mostly kidding, but my question has been answered! Over on Marg’s blog, she lists ten gift ideas for the budding novelist. And her synonym-finder of choice does not require an internet connection.

4. Roget’s Thesaurus. I know there are some thesauri on line but nothing beats the paper version. It is somehow more troll-able. And when things go bad, you can warm it in the oven (not to much, it’s flammable) & cuddle up to it in bed.

It’s like we’re just on the same wavelength, y’know?

Fun fact – we are also college alumna buddies. The campus pub I frequented is called The Cat’s Eye. Really good couches.

They Made Me Read This

1 Dec

My university chum (and future teacher) Miss Randell has been thinking about what she would make high-schoolers read if the curriculum were up to her, and has decided that she would limit the Shakespeare:

Why should students be forced to read Shakespeare every year of high school? I mean, it has to be translated for them (“OK y’all, so this is why Sampson biting his thumb was so badass…“) and as anyone who’s ever paraphrased Willy S will know, changing the language pretty much ruins the play.

You know what ruins anything? Being forced to listen to the entire class taking turns reading every line out loud. This is the required reading from high-school that stuck with me:

Grade 6: Hatchet – Awesome. Only downside? That it made us all secretly wish we were lucky enough to be in plane crash in which the pilot is tragically killed. Also, I drew a sweet hatchet on my book report cover.

Grade 7: Nada – I was busy hating everyone and wishing I had cooler jeans.

Grade 8: I think we just read short stories arranged around themes like “family” and “courage.” Then we’d talk about these themes in “literature circles,” my worst memory of high-school English. We pushed our desks into clumps and asked pre-set questions like, “Do you think a family has to have two parents to be a real family?”

Grade 9: Of Mice and Men – I always got George and Lennie mixed up, because Lennie is a smart, skinny name and George is a big, dumb name. The Pearl – I just kept hoping, over and over again, that maybe everything would turn out ok in the end. I’m not sure if we were really supposed to read two Steinbecks in a row, but I had a just-about-retired teacher that year and he probably thought, to hell with it, The Pearl is really short.  

Grade 10: The Chrysalids – Humans evolve, with extra digits and telepathy. I liked it. Flowers for Algernon – Miss Randell’s right to add some funnier picks to her reading list. It’s a good story, but, at risk of being spoilery, a real downer. Macbeth – Ditto.

A-levels: (I moved to a Brit school in Warsaw). Great Expectations – I wrote essays about Miss Havisham and thought I was a genius. Macbeth again – I dusted off my old “witch voice” routine to use during all class discussions. Genius. Lots of William Blake – My friend Vic and I used cell phones to compose music for The Lamb. Genius. 

More A-levels: (Moved to Worcester here in the UK). Wuthering Heights – I didn’t enjoy it, and having to read it five or six times didn’t help much. I just didn’t buy the whole dying of a broken heart thing. Antony and Cleopatra – We got to go to Stratford-upon-Avon. Before I moved, my Warsaw class was about to do A Clockwork Orange, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Death of a Salesman. I remember because I kept the books.

If it were up to me, I would add some juicier Young Adult Fiction to junior high, to ease the transition between poems about family and tomes about Society. A little Lois Lowry, perhaps? Some Mixed Up Files or Selected Works of T.S. Spivet? And why not let them go to town on The Catcher in the Rye? Hell, they might even think it’s grand, or swell, and not goddamn phony at all.

Teachers out there (or other people who think those darn kids need some good literature!) – what’s on your dream syllabus? Think about it – some of these kids may never open a book again.