Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bookety Book Books

I was going to write something like “So I’ve been up to my eyeballs in book stuff,” but then I thought, well, of course I am. That’s how I do. Anyhoo, that’s part of why I’ve been gone for so long: I’m writing the long book review for the summer issue of Brain, Child and my head and all of my typing ability has gone into that.

In other book news, Caleb is reading Jack London’s Call of the Wild at school. The Call of the Wild does not excite him. I originally thought, Oh, Jack London—all things considered in the canon, he’s not such a toughie. But, it turns out, he kind of is. We sat down to read together to catch up on the book, and this is the sort of sentence we got: “Civilized, he could have died for a moral consideration, say the defence of Judge Miller’s riding whip; but the completeness of his decivilization was now evidenced by his ability to flee from the defence of moral consideration and so save his hide.” And... enter Sandman.

Also, London is an out-of-fashionie. The main characters are dogs, so there’s very little dialogue and not much internal signposts of how a character is feeling. I emailed his teacher about the book—she’s given optional assignments before and I wondered if this might be one of them—but in the end, am I going to waste her time by entering into a debate about when kids should be exposed to The Canon of English Language Literature? And what parts of the canon? Nope.

I’m conflicted myself. On the one hand, you’re not going to think of reading as fun—and you’re not going to be a lifelong reader—if you learn that it’s something to be suffered though. And you’ll be suspicious of books and your own judgment in books if you’re also told that this thing you’re suffering through is considered one of the best our country has to offer. Score one for the Wii.

On the other hand, I totally get the argument that the next generation can’t be all slang and Captain Underpants. Brandon and I just finished the Up series of movies (and by the way—awesome! It’s a series of films about a group of English people. They started interviewing them when the kids where seven, and they go back every seven years), and it’s startling how articulate all the children were in 1964.

What to do, what to do. Very soon, I’m going to start my pal Dan’s book. He’s a cognitive psychologist specializing in education, and Why Don’t Students Like School? has gotten some mahvelous reviews. I imagine some light will be shed on this issue. Some moral consideration, if you will.

And speaking of friends with books—go ahead: admire that segue—I read Jessica Handler’s Invisible Sisters, and it’s just loverley. Jessica’s two sisters died from different fatal bone-marrow disorders and her book is an unsentimental look at what loss does to a family, to a person. Jessica is probably one of the most gregarious ladies I know—and she’s doing readings now. If you’re in the south, you’re in luck.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

When I was in elementary school, there came a time when some teacher had the idea that we all must bring in displays related to our hobbies. I was stumped. I liked to read, but we had all seen a pile of books before at the school library. I liked to ride my bike, but it didn't seem so much a hobby as what kids were supposed to do. I wasn't a gymnastics buff or horse lover or softball player.

I decided to just make up a hobby. I would be a cartoonist. Why, how surprised all my friends would be to discover that I had a secret life, kicking back on Sunday mornings, just me and my pens, doodling up some art, jotting down some bons mots! I started studying the Sunday cartoon section. After one weekend, I had a new "hobby," enough evidence to bring to school to pass off this secret life, and the most rudimentary ideas on how to draw Garfield and The Family Circus family.

Speaking of The Family Circus? I cannot get enough of this.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Some Rain Must Fall

Long time, no blog, huh?

I’ve been waiting for something light-hearted and fun (or, alternately, intellectually engaging and fun) to happen so I don’t have to be the Eeyore on your blogroll, the Debbie Downer in your RSS, the black fly in your chardonnay. But it’s just not happening.

In the scheme of things, in comparison, all is extravagantly okay. We got jobs, for one. But it’s been a series of bummers, really. For example: After the surgery, my blood pressure shot up and it took a couple weeks to get it under control. The hardback of my book has been remaindered. Oprah got all Real Talk about motherhood today with guests that were neither Stephanie nor me nor anyone I know, and my grapes were ever so sour. And the worst news is that our dog Simon has bone cancer and isn’t long for this world.

I know that things will look up. I’m enough an optimist to know that in a few weeks time, life will be better and a new era will have begun and I can stop looking at the ends and start looking at beginnings. But I'm also enough of a pessimist—or realist—to know that even if that is true, my dog will still be dead. And that is what’s killing me.