Friday, April 22, 2011

Another Poem

I will be spending Easter weekend with my family (for the first time in almost ten years!), so I won't be around much on here. I wanted to leave you with another poem to ponder in my absence.

I read this poem last night and just knew I had to share it. I plan to make it a permanent part of the blog somehow because it is just so true. Here is "Reader,"* by Lisel Mueller from her collection Alive Together:

A husband. A wife. Three children. Last year they did not exist;
today the parents are middle-aged, one of the daughters grown. I
live with them in their summer house by the sea. I live with them,
but they can't see me sharing their walks on the beach, their dinner
preparations in the kitchen. I am in pain because I know what they
don't, that one of them has snipped the interlocking threads of their
lives and now there is no end to the slow unraveling. If I am a ghost
they look through, I am also a Greek chorus, hand clapped to
mouth in fear, knowing their best intentions will go wrong.
"Don't," I want to shout, but I am inaudible to them; beach towels
over their shoulders, wooden spoon in hand, they keep pulling at
the threads. When nothing is left they disappear. Closing the book I
feel abandoned. I have lost them, my dear friends. I want to write
them, wish them well, assure each one of my affection. If only they
would have let me say good-bye.

*Mueller wrote this poem specifically about Family Life, by Mary Elsie Robertson, which I have not read. I could certainly, however, relate to the sentiment of this poem!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"kisses are a better fate"

Love ya!
Photo Credit

Here is another post in honor of National Poetry Month, and the poem is another from the tenth grade textbook. It might be a bit ambitious to teach e.e. cummings to sophomores, but I liked the poem so much that I couldn't help myself. I don't necessarily agree with everything in the poem, but it is so beautifully expressed that I feel compelled to love it.

since feeling is first
e.e. cummings

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Caution: Indiscriminate Gushing Ahead

If you have not read Jane Eyre, proceed at your own caution. Important plot points will be given away. If you do not like the equivalent of a fangirl squealing over a cute boy, do not read what follows. I do the blog-equivalent of squealing. A lot. My apologies in advance.

Friends, Jane Eyre is killing me in all the best ways. The passion and tension of the scenes between Jane and Rochester as she acts on, acknowledges, and struggles with her love for him are BREATHTAKING. As in, I literally had to put the book down at the end of the chapter so I could breathe.

Yes, I have been reading this book for almost two months, but that is the joy of returning to a novel that I know so well and already love. I can take my time and really relish the story, the language, and my new observations because I do not have that persistent, ravenous sense of "hurry, hurry, hurry....what will happen? I MUST find out!" I already know how the story ends, so now the pleasure comes in the getting there, not in being there.

I think Chapter XVII is a new favorite. This is the chapter when Jane finally admits to herself (and by extension to the reader) that she loves Edward Fairfax Rochester:
'He is not to them what he is to me,' I thought: 'he is not of their kind. I believe he is of mine--I am sure he is--I feel akin to him--I understand the language of his countenance and movements: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him. Did I say, a few days since, that I had nothing to do with him but to receive my salary at his hands? Did I forbid myself to think of him in any other light than as a paymaster? Blasphemy against nature! Every good, true vigorous feeling I have gathers impulsively round him. I know I must conceal my sentiments: I must smother hope; I must remember that he cannot care much for me. For when I say that I am of his kind, I do not mean that I have his force to influence, and his spell to attract; I mean only that I hae certain tastes and feelings in common with him. I must, then, repeat, continually that we are for ever sundered--and yet, while I breathe and think, I must love him.'

I love that she says she can't help but love him while she breathes and thinks, for if Jane Eyre is anything, she is a thinking woman. This internal dialogue happens at the beginning of the first evening that Jane has to endure with the rest of the party (Blanche Ingram and company), and as the night progresses, Jane becomes more and more miserable and tries to escape. Mr. Rochester, of course, is reluctant to let her go because he, too, is in love with her. Jane says that Rochester "made me love him without looking at me," but, of course, he does look at her because he loves her. Until this reading, I didn't realize that Bronte very subtly lets the reader know along the way that Rochester is feeling exactly what Jane is feeling; I didn't notice on previous reads, I think, because I was just so caught up in the exquisite feeling of not knowing what would happen.

The fact that the feelings are mutual is very clear at the end of this same chapter. Please indulge me by allowing me one last quote which is a new favorite:
'Return to the drawing-room: you are deserting too early.'
'I am tired, sir.'
He looked at me for a minute.
'And a little depressed,' he said. 'What about? Tell me.'
'Nothing--nothing, sir. I am not depressed.'
'But I affirm that you are: so much depressed that a few more words would bring tears to your eyes--indeed, they are there now, shining and swimming; and a bead has slipped from the lash and fallen on to the flag. If I had time, and was not in mortal dread of some prating prig of a servant passing, I would know what all this means. Well, tonight I excuse you; but understand that so long as my visitors stay, I expect you to appear in the drawing-room every evening; it is my with; don't neglect it. Now go, and send Sophie for Adele. Good night, my---' He stopped, bit his lip, and abruptly left me.

I seriously could live off of the end of this chapter. So much pain! So much angst! So much tension! I love it!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I Might Be Crazy

Amy recently posted about her literary eyes being bigger than her literary stomach, and I think I have a severe case of book consumption optimism. Why you ask?

Well, because I just signed up for two readalongs of two very long literary classics. Allie over at A Literary Odyssey is hosting a readalong of The Iliad in May and The Idiot in May and June. Did I also mention that I signed up to read Sense & Sensibility and Little Dorrit for the Classic Circuit's battle royale between Austen and Dickens?

Then there is the small fact that the last month of school (i.e. May) is notoriously time-consuming and insanity-inducing.

But I couldn't help it! And in my defense, I've already read the first half of The Iliad, and I've already read Little Dorrit (so I could skim or read only select passages again. But did you really expect me to root for either Austen or Dickens over the other? I can't swear that kind of allegiance!). That means I would only really be reading Sense & Sensibility (which compared to the other three is quite puny in length), the second half of The Iliad, and all of The Idiot, which runs into June anyway.

Maybe I'm just in denial, but how, HOW, was I supposed to resist all these lovely books?

Friday, April 15, 2011

"The Boat Longing For the Sea"

It is National Poetry Month, and I hope to share some of my favorite poems as the month continues.

"George Gray", by Edgar Lee Masters, is a poem I discovered last semester because it is in the sophomore textbook. I immediately loved it and decided to read and discuss it with my sophomores. I particularly love the metaphor and symbolism of the boat.

George Gray
I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me—
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire—
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Torn Between Two Great Loves

Do I even need to say how ridiculously excited I am about this??!! Now I just have to decide who I want to read...I was thinking about it on the way to work this morning, and I think I will try to sign up for Sense and Sensibility (as long as no one else grabs it) because it is the only Austen I haven't read. While I feel I owe my literary allegiance and endless love to Mr. Dickens, reading an Austen novel during the last month of school is just a bit more realistic. Plus I've read most of Dickens already...more on that later.

Won't you join me in biting my nails in extreme anticipation over this literary pleasure?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Readathon 2011: The End

It turns out that I was more brain fried than I thought last night, so I didn't post any more about my readathon reading. I did end up getting some good reading in, though, so my readathon stats didn't turn out quite as pitiful as I thought they would!

The facts:
Books finished: 1 (1 total)
Pages read: 234 (367 total)
Hours read: 4 (7 total)

I finished When We Were Strangers shortly after posting last night. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't the greatest thing ever. I finished One Day, by David Nicholls, a few days ago, which pretty much rocked my world. I will be posting on it eventually (probably after I read Tess of the D'Urbervilles), but when I picked up When We Were Strangers, I was looking for another really, really awesome read. When We Were Strangers didn't end up being that for me, but it was a fast, nice read.

After I finished When We Were Strangers, I started Nightshade, which proved to be a good late-in-the-game read. Despite tired eyes and exhausted brain, it kept my attention and made me want to keep reading. I picked this one up at the library based on Amy's review.

So all said, not my best readathon ever, but I still enjoyed it!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Readathon 2011: In Which I Multitask...Sort of...

First things first: here are my mid-event survey answers!

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? When We Were Strangers
2. How many books have you read so far? Two (one audio, one print). Do four MTLE tests count?
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
Um...I'm really just looking forward to reading instead of test-taking. I might listen to an audiobook later and knit, since I'm sure my eyes will go early thanks to the four hours I spent staring at a computer screen during testing.
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? I wanted to, but the small fact of keeping my teaching license got in the way ;)
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? See the answer to number 4 ;)
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? Uh....these surveys go a lot better when you've actually read more than a few hours!
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? None! love it!
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Set aside the day for real!
9. Are you getting tired yet? Yes, but that's because of those tests...
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Nope!

I've only read for about three hours today (and I've listened to my audiobook, Bonobo Handshake while driving to and from the tests) because most of my day was consumed with taking the licensure exams. And let me tell you, friends, I think I'll be taking them again. Big sad face. Maybe after I've gotten some sleep and my brain has rebooted I will feel more confident, but confidence is not overabundant here at Read the Book right now.

Now that I can be fully committed to the readathon, I hope to post a few more times tonight. See you then!

The facts:
Books finished: 0 (0 total)
Pages read: 133 (133 total)
Hours read: 3 (3 total)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Bit of Catch-Up (But Not the Kind for Fries)

I have been a bit absent from the blog lately and will probably continue to be for the next few weeks. Life is extremely busy right now with teaching, coaching speech, finishing my online class, preparing for the Minnesota licensure exams that I have to take, and trying to sleep, eat, and stay healthy in between! I hope to do two or three more Jane Eyre posts (the movie STILL isn't here!) as soon as possible, but I wanted to take care of some housekeeping in the meantime.

I was extremely excited about participating in the 24-Hour Readathon, and I fully intended to read as much as I possibly could that day. Sadly, April 9th was one of the only days that I could take one of the aforementioned licensure exams, so I will actually be spending most of that day answering questions about literature, pedagogy, and adolescents age 11-18. I know your jealous; try not to let it eat up your soul. I do have a four hour window between tests and I will have the evening free, so I still plan to read, read, read. In fact, I am headed to the library to pick up the Readathon books that are waiting for me there.

Speaking of library books on hold, it is time for Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge! I discovered this challenge last year, and while I didn't complete it, I did enjoy the books I read for it. This year, I am signing up for Quest the First, which means I have to read four books that fit any of the challenge categories (fantasy, myth, folklore, or fairy tales).

I had the hardest time with the folklore category last year, but I already have a good list of books that I am contemplating reading for the challenge. Here's what I'm thinking I will choose from (at least at the moment!):
1. Tender Morsels (folklore)
2. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (fantasy)
3. My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me (fairy tale)
4. The Iliad (myth)--I never did finish this...
5. The Name of the Wind (fantasy)
6. Till We Have Faces (myth)--I had this on my list last year, but I didn't actually read it.
7. As many of the books from the Samaria (fantasy) series by Sharon Shinn--One of my goals for this year was to reread these books, which I loved the first time through.
8. Something by Angela Carter (fairy tale/folklore)

My list is quite fantasy heavy, but I hope to find some good ideas from the other challenge participants.

Here's to Spring and some wonderful reading!