Sunday, May 5, 2013

Springtime for Karen and Flaggystaff

Kudos if you get the reference.

Ah, spring.  The time of year when you get to relax a bit and everyone is still in a good mood because the weather is warmer but still not horribly hot.

Except in Phoenix.  HAHAHAHA.

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, it's time to talk about books!  Hooray!  I have been getting more work done at work and been giving out less homework as it is, so I've gotten a chance to do some reading recently.  This weekend being excluded, but until pictures get posted to Facebook I don't think I'll write about that just yet.

I may have talked about this before on this blog and I'm sure I could go back and check, but the act of reading a book again can be a powerful one.  The way I see it is that people are fundamentally the same day to day.  We are who we are and the majority of things stay the same.  I have been a Beatles fan since I was two.  But the minutiae of who we are is different every day.  For example, which Beatles's song will appeal the most to me today when skipping through my iPod while driving to work?  I also think that every couple of years we recognize what major changes we have gone through.  We rediscover who we are and what makes us joyful.  Change is good.  Change brings new life.  I think people are always afraid of changing and drifting farther apart from one another.  I'm excited to share changes, whatever they may be, and drift closer to people.

(It always reminds me of the scene in Ed Wood where Johnny Depp's character finally tells the girl he's interested in that he likes to wear women's clothes.  She responds by taking off her sweater and offering it to him.  I wish more people were like that.  Just accept and support.  I think my only exceptions to this are substance abuse and most illegal activities.  Like murder.  Not cool to blame that one on personal growth.)

Anyway, as we change in small ways and in big ways throughout the years, we should give books another chance.  Or not, if your memory is wonderfully rosy-colored and you want to keep it that way. I recently showed one of my friends a scene from Fern Gully; she used to watch it as a kid but had forgotten that Robin Williams is a voice talent, so I showed her the Batty rap scene.  She got very disturbed and began to wonder what else from her childhood no longer had that hue of adorable.

Sometimes, though, if you're lucky, the book you reread changes in positive ways.  You notice things you didn't before, subtleties pop out at you, metaphors and emotions garner more meaning.  I recently reread The Giver and The Great Gatsby.

The Giver I originally read in middle school.  I'm not sure if I was simply having a horrible time in middle school or if I truly didn't enjoy the book, but for whatever elusive reason I hated The Giver.  A burning white hot passion, if ever there was one.  I was disgusted with it.  And now I can't even remember why.  The 6th graders at my school were reading it, and all the other teachers were commenting on how much they had enjoyed it and continued to do so, even as adults.  Since I was curious and I respect my colleagues (and was vaguely incredulous), I decided to reread it.  Wow.  I wouldn't say it was a stunning new approach to literature.  The plot was interesting in a sort of predictable, regular dystopian kind of way.  Content child growing up in what he thought was a normal environment suddenly discovers, through the help of a mentor, that it is much more sinister than originally thought.  Not exactly the freshest idea on the planet, but the execution was well done.  That was what I think I missed the first time.  The first time, I was so focused on the plot, which I found at the time to be slow and uninteresting.  Now, I knew the plot pretty well, so I could appreciate how well the story itself was woven together.  It's hard to convey that kind of emotion in a simple, quick novel.  Lois Lowry did it surprisingly well.  I still don't really care for Number the Stars, however.  I prefer just going whole hog and reading The Diary of Anne Frank.  Hmmm.  Been a while on that one, too.

The Great Gatsby I read in high school.  Junior year with Mrs. Miller.  Boy, I sure did like Mrs. Miller, but I didn't really like any of the books I read that year.  Except Brave New World (which I hate now), and The Grapes of Wrath, which no one else liked.  Our summer book was East of Eden, and everything about that book made me feel hollow and unloved.  It was like nothing in the world was nice.  Then, we read The Scarlett Letter.  Meh.  If I were to read it now, as an adult, things would probably be different.  But back then, naive and young, it was very overwrought.  The last, other thing we read was Gatsby.  If I remember correctly, we listened to it in class off of old tape cassettes.  Haha.  I think this was the case because I vaguely remember the narrator singing the excerpt from "The Sheikh of Araby".  Which now seems definitely racist.  I remember our teacher gushing about it but really feeling dissatisfied.  Kind of like, "okay, what's the big deal, again?"  And I sure couldn't identify with any of the characters.  They were all rich, spoiled children.  Big creepy brats.  It all seemed so wasteful and pointless.  No one really struggled and everything was in vain.  There was no real meaning to life.  Now, reading it, there's almost too much meaning.  Everybody feels deeply but either can't or won't give in to their feelings and expression.  They choose the easy and comfortable option while knowing that their lives will never have true happiness or meaning.  But what is true happiness?  It is the green light at the end of the dock.  We always want it, but when it comes our way it's lost its appeal and we no longer have it.  It's an illusion towards which we always strive and never arrive.  Plus, I hate to say it, but actually having been in love and having someone for whom you would literally sacrifice anything really changes your perspective about characters in love.  I now sympathize quite a bit with Gatsby, even if he was misguided, because I can understand that pain of separation and jealousy and forbidden love.  Even if my life has none of that.  Haha.  So thanks, Mrs. Miller.  I get it now.

Whew.  I have about four hours to kill before guests come over for dinner and an evening of Game of Thrones.  Yes, I should make the bed and pick up the bedroom, but I don't have any grading to do.  What should I read now?

East of Eden.

Just kidding, I think I'll pick up Reliquary, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  Who doesn't like monsters loose in NYC?

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