On my way home from a haircut (“Saya potong rambut” in Bahasa Indonesian), I snapped this photo of a flower seller reading a book. He seemed deeply engrossed in the book, as there was total chaos going on around him. Bajai and Ojek drivers moving past, cars going by, some white guy snapping photos…and he stayed focused on his book. Here’s hoping that, as we start the school year tomorrow, my students are as dedicated to their reading as this man is.
I am a bibliophile.
I like books. No. I love books. I have books in my collection that I’ve not read yet. There are a few books that I’m really proud of owning: Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, a copy from the first printing with dust jacket; the Philip Pullman trilogy, much to the chagrin of some of my friends at church; the entire Bone collection; a former estate collection (donated to the MCC) of hardcover Harvard Classics that include Don Quixote and Crime and Punishment.
I love the smell of old books. I love the smell of libraries. I love sitting in the stacks and perusing, not glancing, through books to see if I’m interested. I could lose hours in bookstores and libraries.
I am a bibliophile.
I’ve had the chance to do a lot of reading this summer and very little of it was applicable to my profession (which makes it awesome). Photo Friday’s challenge this week is Recreation and I couldn’t think of a better definition of recreation than the reading list that exists in this photo. Please allow me to explain a couple of things. I have a Bachelor of Arts, with a major in English Literature. I am a teacher of 11th and 12th grade English, creative writing and student leadership. I am an unabashed comic book fan.
My reading list for tonight, above, is indicative of all that I find fun, exciting and interesting about the offerings of literature. Here’s what you see above:
1. Image Comics Trade Paperback 1st volume of Elephantmen. I’m going to caution you about this series. It is incredible, but involves a great deal of disturbing concepts and visuals. It involves a number of Animal/Human hybrids who were the brainchild of, from what I’ve deduced, a psychopathic geneticist who saw them as his greatest achievement and a weapon to use against humankind. They rebelled, or were decommissioned, and are now trying to fit into general society. They re-created their own purpose. Interesting premise, if you can get past the violence.
2. DC Comics Trade Paperbacks (Superman, Superboy, Batman). I’m not even going to explain this one. If you don’t know who these characters are, shame on you. Recreational superhero reading. Yay!
3. Marvel Comics Ultimate X-Men. Mark Millar reimagined (re-created?) the iconic X-Men back in 2001 and retold the original series in a modernized setting. From what I gather, the series was re-created in Ultimate form in order to bring in younger comics readers who couldn’t keep up with the many iterations of X-Men that existed as of the turn of the century, so Millar put his much loved edge to the series and rebooted it. Very cool. Seriously. I would love to have Magneto’s hair.
4. Dark Horse Comics Star Wars: The Old Republic. This TPB (trade paperback) collected comics based on a video game based on a fictional history based on the movies of Star Wars. Yup. If you don’t get that, smile, nod, and move on. Pure recreation.
5. Terry Moore’s independently-published Echo. This is the first volume TPB of Echo. It’s about a photographer named Julie who accidentally witnesses the destruction of a military experiment. The result is that she is exposed to a high-tech metal that fuses with part of her body and the repercussions involved. She realizes that her life has been changed, re-created, and starts to accept her new purpose. Lots of humor and adventure. I can’t wait to read more.
6. Vertigo Comics Fables: Rose Red. This series, which I’ve only read in TPB format, is incredible. This is the 15th volume and it centers on Snow White’s sister, Rose Red. The entire series is based on the idea that there is (was?) a war in the worlds of the Fables and our most beloved of them move into our world and occupy a magical borough called Fabletown in the city of New York. The vulnerability and power of the Fables themselves is based entirely in our knowledge and belief in them. This means that Snow White, thanks to Walt Disney, is nigh unto invulnerable to any attack (in fact, she is shot in the head by Goldilocks and recovers within weeks). Incredible writing; incredible visuals; even more incredible creativity re-creating characters with whom we are so familiar.
7. Finally, Onward by Howard Schultz. I’ve barely cracked this book and already I’m impressed. I wanted to read this book after I watched Schultz speak, on Piers Morgan Tonight, about his boycott on political campaign contributions and impressed me with his seeming integrity and forthrightness. It seems to me that he is re-creating the American business landscape and I want to know more about him. So far (the Introduction) it’s interesting and bold. I like it.
So, that’s my recreational reading. What’s yours like? Who or what do you read during your leisure time?
…and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.” – Steinbeck
I’ve always liked Steinbeck’s writing. From The Pearl to Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath to Sweet Thursday, his novels have always made me smile. He had a way of phrasing things that made the most tragic, heart-wrenching moments seem beautiful. Beautiful misery. Gorgeous sorrow.
At the same time, he also had a way of making you empathize with a character who was about to murder his friend, or nearly destroying a family through the pursuit of something nearly unattainable.
Go. Go now. Read some Steinbeck. You’ll feel better.
My friend Wes says that there are days when it looks like we live in Middle Earth, that our local environment is something from a Tolkien novel. I think he says this when there’s a sunny/cloudy day and the sun shines on the snow-capped mountains that surround our homes. There is a certain majestic grandeur to a great deal of the Lower Fraser Valley.
Sunday, when my family and I visited Cheam Lake (see yesterday’s post) I found out that barely twenty minutes away from where I live exists the dark side of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The Dead Marshes, at least our local version, exists within the Cheam Lake park. It’s funny, because both my wife and I thought the same thing when we saw it. We’re both big fans of the movies (we watch the extended versions at least twice a year just for the fun of it) and I’ve read the books a few times. What’s ironic is that we both hate the parts of the movie wherein Frodo and Samwise have a big love-fest. Or maybe it’s just the unrequited love that Sam has for Frodo that bugs me. Either way, we skip ahead through the DVDs, right through the parts with Sam and Frodo.
To be completely forthright, I skipped through the parts in the books Two Towers and Return of the King that involved Frodo and Sam. There was something annoying about them. I knew they had to survive, but I kept wishing that Gollum/Smeagol would just get it over with and kill them both. Is that wrong?
In eleven years of teaching, I’ve taught a good number of short stories, poems and novels. The one piece of literature that has been the most turbulent is Catcher in the Rye. I love this novel, but it is rife with bad language, immoral behavior and a poor, lost soul of a sixteen year old boy. I love this novel, but it has raised the ire of parents and students alike. Yet, I’ve also never taught a novel that had so many students saying, “I wish more novels were like this.” Or, “I get this kid.” Or, “Holden talks like we do in the hallway.”
It is a turbulent, controversial, lovable, offensive novel. Man, I love this novel.
Those of you who’ve read this blog before might have caught on to the fact that I’m a teacher, an educator. I’ve never really spelled out, I don’t think, what it is that I teach. I teach Student Leadership and English. In the area of Student Leadership part, I am a teacher of 55 dedicated students who meet at 7:00 in the morning twice a week to plan events for the other thousand students in my school. They plan dances, assemblies, pep rallies and lunchtime events like the human curling and crazy obstacle courses.
The other part of my job is spent teaching students to think critically, read critically, present knowledgeably, and write eloquently. This is not teaching students to read, but to read better. Not to write, but to write better. I am qualified to teach this subject because I have an English Major in my B.A. degree. All of that studying of literature when I was university has amounted to quite a nice little library of books in my classroom, all of which I have read.
I cannot say that I loved every one of these books – in fact, I kind of loathe a few of them. I have quite fond memories of most of them. Are there any in this photo that you liked? Or hated?
I’m quite certain this is some guy’s name, or maybe the name of a graffiti crew, but it makes me think of one thing: Noam Chomsky. When I saw it on the concrete highway support, I thought that some student of media and communications, or maybe a linguistics students. Then I realized that it didn’t actually say “Chomsky” – it says CHOMtcki or something. Too bad, seeing as how Chomsky was a student of language and communication. When I saw this my mind went back to the first time I watched “Manufacturing Consent” and how outraged I was at how mass media twists and manipulates, often through the simplest means like inclusion vs. exclusion, the popular opinion on major issues. It was through Chomsky I first came across the plight of the East Timorese and the lack of coverage of their problems with Indonesia. I also thought back to my earliest years in university when I first started reading Chomsky’s work.
It is kind of weird, however, to see what came to my mind through a mistake in reading. This got me thinking: how much of what I read is what is actually written and how much of my experience while reading is a direct result of where my mind goes while I’m reading? How much is a result of my own experience that, while it may be somewhat non sequitur to the reading material, shapes my understanding of what I read, of how I see the world. If a misread word can conjure up memories of my earliest years in post-secondary academia, what happens when I read things properly? I have taught introductory psychology courses and I know, basically, how my brain works. I also know that both “nature and nurture” play a big part in how I have become who I am today. But what if the way I see the world is entirely different from the way you see the world, but we both believe that we see it the same way because we only have the vocabulary we share to make sense of it? Words would, then, make our ability to express our experiences less personal and more communal, thus bringing us together when our own perception is moving us apart.
Maybe I need some sleep.
Huh? Actually, I should make note of the fact that the title, above, comes from one of my favorite novels, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera. I haven’t read it lately, but this quotation always struck me as poetic. At the end of anything, a relationship, a love, a career, nostalgia clouds our minds and makes them seem better than what they are. The reason this thing is dissolving is that it is no longer worth having, yet we look back on it with fondness. Nostalgia is a trickster.
In a related note, Jonathan Foer’s book Everything is Illuminated was named for this quotation from Kundera. If you want two books to read that will challenge your mind, in totally different ways mind you, check out these two books.
Two things stand out to me about people I meet: hands and reading material.
They’re kind of connected, but I love seeing people reading and can’t help but notice their hands while they hold their book. My curiosity is piqued when I see people reading books that completely belie their outward appearances. Like a Harley-riding biker reading The Notebook or a prim and proper princess reading Fight Club.
Pentax K20D; Pentax M SMC 50mm; f1.7; ISO 400; 1/25 sec.