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)