You’re reading what?

Yesterday no one commented on the title of my post, which is the title of Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions or Goodbye, Blue Monday. Remember that book? I love Kurt Vonnegut. Quirky author.

I’ve been an avid reader all my life.From the age of seven it was my refuge and comfort in difficult times and now, it is still one of my greatest pleasures to sneak off with a good book. Early on I was tackling the classics, in no small part influenced by my mother, an English Lit teacher. My tendency was to find an author I liked and stick with her or him until I read much or all of their writing.By middle school I had read all of Steinbeck and Bradbury and I was moving on to Doris Lessing and Herman Melville, Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In 9th grade I had my mother as my English teacher and she had us hard on the heels of Shakespeare and Chaucer. Even today I can recite a fair amount of the preface to The Canterbury Tales in Middle English. For what that’s worth.

My children, much to my dismay, haven’t been fired up fiction readers. Although they were both swamped with books from babyhood on and they loved being read to, they haven’t, until fairly recently, fallen into reading for pleasure. The oldest had a bit of visual processing disorder and learned everything auditorily- through his ears- and although he tackles the tough stuff now, school years were not reading years. Towards the end of 6th grade his teacher wrote a note saying that he couldn’t write yet another book report on Calvin and Hobbs. By tenth grade, although he could play long musical compositions by the jazz masters after a couple times listening, reading was still not a way he chose to while away the hours.

The Snarl, until very recently, was reading to gather information. Dive manuals, science and math books and foreign language. She has mastered both Latin and Greek and in middle school she was- it’s true- the national first place winner in Linguistics for Academic Games. She can parse like nobody you ever met.

So imagine my surprise the other day when Rich and I were out to lunch with her and the conversation about matrix calculus (that I didn’t take part in- I watched the pelicans) dropped off and she laughed about her new English lit class where they are reading Shakespeare. She said, "This is the first time I’ve read anything by Shakespeare. I got to class and said to the teacher, ‘You never told me this was in a foreign language.’ " WHAT???? She’s taking a senior seminar called The Philosophy of Green Politics but this is her first shot at Shakespeare? How did she get out of high school?

Frankly, I don’t think kids, with the possible exception of Arethusa and SRP’s daughter, Nyssa and Bonnie’s crowd, read as much as they used to anyway. They might be media and telecommunications experts, but what happened to Cannery Row?

Thyself and thy belongings
Are not thine own so proper as to waste
Thyself upon thy virtues, they on thee.
Heaven doth with us as we with torches do,
Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues
Did not go forth of us, ’t were all alike
As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touch’d
But to fine issues, nor Nature never lends
The smallest scruple of her excellence
But, like a thrifty goddess, she determines
Herself the glory of a creditor,
Both thanks and use.  Measure for Measure, Shakespeare


And for your viewing pleasure, I present an example of Nature’s excellence in "smallest"- for a heron, that is. This little Green Heron was down at the dock our last morning in St. Pete. This heron is more reclusive and shy by nature than her cousins, the Great Blue or Egret and they are often very well camouflaged with all those earthy tones, but on this early morning she was out fishing. I was able to watch her for a good twenty minutes before she had her fill and flew off. Isn’t she lovely?  (click to enlarge)

Gr3_1Gr2_1 Gr4

11 responses to “You’re reading what?

  1. Hey, I majored in English and have a walk-in closet full of books, and I still don’t think I’ve read everything I “should have.” 🙂 I’m surprised, though, that at least one Shakespeare play or even a sonnet wasn’t covered by your daughter’s high school. Really? I would think everyone would have at least been exposed to *Romeo and Juliet* before graduating. I hope your daughter enjoys whatever Shakespeare works her class is covering. Tell her the language is much easier if she doesn’t think about it too much, and instead just lets the general message soak in.

    Thinking about Shakespeare: When I was in college, I took a strictly Shakespeare class and the professor had us break into groups and rehearse/perform a scene from a play. My group chose to make a puppet show (with a stage borrowed from a children’s library) for a scene from *A Midsummer Night’s Dream* — and today my almost-five-year-old son plays with the “Puck” puppet I made back then. 🙂

  2. I took Shakespeare classes too, and my prof made them so very interesting! Steinbeck is a favorite, Vicki and Cannery Row absolutely my favorite.

    My kids don’t read as much as I do either, and it bothers me, but maybe they will when they are older.

  3. How do you get out of English without reading Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing (most hysterical play). She’s read so much Shakespeare that she is considering skipping that course in college and taking those she hasn’t gotten into much. Of course she has to be weird. Her favorite Shakespeare play is Richard III. Ask her to talk about calculus, however, and she will screw her face into a grimace that could do as much damage as Medusa.

    I thought Canterbury Tales and Beowolf were written in a foreign language!

    Love the heron. How did you get such a close-up shot so clear? This one is quite small. I’m still trying to figure out if those blue gray stlited birds I’ve seen around here are herons or some other species. The wetlands preserve is wintering grounds to so many different birds and I am not very educated in that area. As I get older and older I am overwhelmed with the fact that “there are libraries full of books, full of things I don’t know.”

    Yeaaaaaaaah Stirling!!!!!!

  4. Your heron is beautiful. One of my favorites.

    I like your authors…my favorites of these 3…
    Steinbeck = Log From The Sea Of Cortez
    Bradbury = Something Wicked This Way Comes
    Hemingway = Islands In The Stream

  5. Vicki's sister, Betsy

    Sharing the same English lit teacher mom as Vicki, I also read a fair bit of Shakespeare when young. Some of it called to me; some not. But two of my most memorable moments involve Shakespeare. First, as a high school diva soprano, I was assigned a solo from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” by my beloved but probably sadistic choir director, to sing at the Detroit City-wide choir competition. As I belted out, with perfect diction, “Where the bee sucks, there suck I…,” 3,000 high school kids sat briefly stunned and then broke en masse into laughter that fortunately obscured the rest of the song.

    On the other hand, having our Irish Yooper friend Sean, with his deep, inflective voice and odd but compelling accent, read Sonnet 116 at our wedding two years ago re-endeared Shakespeare to me. Sean’s dramatic gesture and almost alarmed “O no!” nearly brought down the house, but it’s the one moment nobody there will ever forget. And I forgave the Bard for those sucking bees.

    Let me not to the marriage of true minds
    Admit impediments. Love is not love
    Which alters when it alteration finds,
    Or bends with the remover to remove:
    O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
    That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
    It is the star to every wandering bark,
    Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
    Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
    Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
    Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
    But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
    If this be error and upon me proved,
    I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

    Sonnet 116

  6. Ashley reads everything and anything, but prefers classics and culture books. She is a huge Vonnegut fan also. Alison hates to read, which is disappointing to me.

  7. Ashley reads everything and anything, but prefers classics and culture books. She is a huge Vonnegut fan also. Alison hates to read, which is disappointing to me.

  8. Don’t despair of the reading habits of the younger generation. Sophie and Emma spend as much money at Barnes&Noble as I do. Emma has had an obsession with Vladimir Nabokov for the last 2 years; when last I saw her she was reading Despair. Sophie’s nose was deep in Crime and Punishment over Christmas break. And, I have to say, their friends have similar tastes in literature. But maybe they are all just nerds??

  9. I admit that even I do not read as many books as I used to: when I was younger I went through a book a *day*. When I ran out, and nothing in the library immediately caught my attention and I’d borrowed all of my friends Archie comics and Sweet Dreams (blech) I’d ask them what books they were covering in their English classes and read those too.

    Alas, now I’m down to a book a week if I’m lucky. Of course I’m only counting the ones strictly read for pleasure. (Richard III is my favourite Shakespeare play as well. Nyssa rocks!)

  10. How did I miss this fine post?! And, Betsy dropped by with MORE Shakespeare!

    Did you know that Caravaggio’s most famous self-portrait places him in the shield of Medusa? It’s stuff like this that makes being an art history teacher such fun!!

  11. How did I miss this fine post?! And, Betsy dropped by with MORE Shakespeare!

    Did you know that Caravaggio’s most famous self-portrait places him in the shield of Medusa? It’s stuff like this that makes being an art history teacher such fun!!

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