Thoughts on a Thursday: Comfort Reading

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Both kids have been sick for a few days and I am battling it as well. I remember one of the ways I knew The Girl was very, very sick in 5th grade was when she couldn’t read. That was a scary moment. But this time even at her sickest (Monday when her temperature hovered around 103°) she still was reading so I knew that she was basically OK. But she was reading old books. Books she had read before, stories she knew well and that she didn’t really have to think to hard about. In other words, comfort reading.

For me, comfort reading is the stories which I can dose in and out of and still know where I am and what is going on, Pern and Gaiman and Grimm. Or it is stories that are light and easy. No tomes of worth and import, not Dickens or Hemingway or Plato but Prachett and Hines and some YA reads. Not that the lessons in those latter are not as important and profound as those found in the former but I can read them without dropping off into coma-land.

So what do you crack open while you burrow under the covers and sip tea and recover?

Happy Valentine’s Day

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A break from my words today and I give you those of e.e. cummings.

[love is more thicker than forget]

By e. e. cummings

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail
it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea
love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive
it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky

Updating the Classics

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Remember a few weeks ago when I claimed I was not a canon girl. When I claimed that you can change things around in adapting books to cinema and I was totally OK with that. Well, since then I have been having that conversation over and over again with people, refining what I think and what I said and I have to amend my statement. You can completely make changes going from book to film but leave my books alone. There is no reason to change my books!

To clarify, I love a great adaptation. Change the setting, rename the characters; let’s be honest there are only so many plots out there and if you can retell a story inventively I am totally on your side. One of my favorite movies is “10 Things I Hate About You” which unless you are very young, very illiterate, or both you know is based loosely on “The Taming of the Shrew.” Princess of the Midnight Ball was a fabulous retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses.

So where is the line? Recently I read about some trends which make me cringe. First off there is Orson Scott Card’s book Hamlet’s Father. Up front I have deep political and moral differences with Card. But when I read that he was going to re-frame Hamlet through the lens of homophobia and bigotry I was, well, I don’t even have words for what I was. the publisher claims:

“Once you’ve read Orson Scott Card’s revelatory version of the Hamlet story, Shakespeare’s play will be much more fun to watch—because now you’ll know what’s really going on.”

According to a review over at Rain Taxi

“Old King Hamlet was an inadequate king because he was gay, an evil person because he was gay, and, ultimately, a demonic and ghostly father of lies who convinces young Hamlet to exact imaginary revenge on innocent people. The old king was actually murdered by Horatio, in revenge for molesting him as a young boy—along with Laertes, and Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern, thereby turning all of them gay.

Card knows this is what is “really going on” how? Where in the play is this revelation revealed? Or is this rewrite merely an thinly veiled hate filled screed? Haters, stay away from my classic books!

The second trend that baffled me when I read about it was the idea of rewriting classics as erotic fiction. The specific one I know about is Jane Eyre Laid Bare. Why do we need to do this? Wasn’t the avalanche of marriages between classics and monsters enough? I am looking at you, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Really if you want zesty classic reading, it is not like erotica was invented with the publication of 50 Shades of Meh. You can start with Satyricon from Ancient Rome, move on to The Decameròn from 1353,  Fanny Hill,  Arabian Nights, Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer or The Story of O. Much like I don’t want to have certain visually images of those near and dear to me nor do I want to have someone else map out Mr. Rochester and Jane or Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Fitzwilliam DarcyThere is plenty of good erotic literature out there. Really just leave my classics be.

What a Racket!

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I had a different post I was going to write today but instead I spent the day trying to figure out how to deal with a textbook issue in my class. Let me back up a bit.

Last semester there was an issue when one of my classes did not have a text because it was not ordered. >:( So for this semester, in December, I called the bookstore and checked on all my classes. I was told yes they had the order and indeed they even had the book, plenty of copies.

Fast forward to this semester, week one of classes is plagued by a system-wide Blackboard outage which puts all classes behind. Then I walk into my on-campus class which meets on Friday mornings to find that 5 or 6 students do not have the book and the bookstore has told them they can get any more copies because it is an “old” edition. Note is it a 2012 edition and 2013 came out in January. So, I let them out a few minutes early and march down to find out where all of my “plenty” of copies have gone. I was told by the nice lady at the bookstore that 1. they sold an awful lot of my books and 2. they didn’t order a full class load of books because why would ALL of the students buy the book. Huh?

When I questioned why we could not order more books and was told that there were not more books to be found. Really? There are “plenty” wherever I have looked. Here is the rub. There are no more at the suppliers the bookstore is “allowed to use.” Why is that important? Because I work at a small community college where financial aid does not come in for about 4 weeks. The bookstore is willing to front the kids money against their incoming financial aid to buy their books. If the bookstore is not willing to get anymore books from other supplier, these kids are out of luck.

I might have gotten a bit peeved. The bookstore employee searched around a bit and seemed to find a new source and ordered 15 more copies. She called and confirmed they were physical books with the access code needed. They would be in on Wednesday. YAY! I tell the students. I move due dates. We wait for Wednesday. Yesterday was Wednesday. Guess what? No physical books, just cards with access codes and e-texts.

So tomorrow I go to class and tell students, sorry you are out of luck. I know you have the money coming to buy the book from another source, but the bookstore screwed you out of a text for the class for 4 weeks and I can’t put off all assignments that long. Oh, and you, my student with a learning disability, I really hope you can  use an e-text.

All of this is a long way to ask if textbooks have become more of a racket. I mean I know that have always been horrible overpriced, but this stranglehold of one store and limited supply seems to be setting students up to fail. And if this is the case, are we losing students not because they can’t cut it but because they can’t financial cut it. And isn’t that a shame.

Thoughts on a Thursday: I am not a Canon Girl

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In the past few weeks I have seen The Hobbit twice and Les Misérables once. I adore them both. I also had issues with them but for the most part they did not involve any of the changes made for the big screen.  You see, I am not a canon girl. I can easily adapt to changes in story and plot and character so long as the movie stays true to what I feel is its heart.

In The Hunger Games book the mockingjay pin was given to Katniss by Madge Undersee, the mayor’s daughter. In the film, Madge doesn’t appear at all, and Katniss obtains the pin from Greasy Sae. Does it matter really? The heart of the thing is the pin and what it represents. And in the film you see that as it goes from Katniss to Prim and Prim to Katniss and then Cinna to Katniss.

One of the most iconic pieces of Hollywood memorabilia of all time is not canon. In the F. Frank Baum novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Dorothy’s slippers were silver. However, in order to take advantage of the new Technicolor film process the shoes were changed to Ruby red slippers. In the world of the Internet the number of changes to the original OZ story that the movie made caused an explosion. But instead what we have is a beloved classic film.

My husband is a canon guy. He likes the story to follow in the footsteps of the books and with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit which he has read a kabillionity times it was obvious. No Tom Bombadil or Imrahil. Arwen is a major player? Where was the Scouring of the Shire? And on and on and on. So when we went to The Hobbit I knew to expect that it would be worse because Jackson took more liberties with it. When Christopher Toelkin finally spoke about LOTR he had few nice things to say:

“They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25, … And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film.”

That said, I must love an eviscerated book. Radagast? Who would not want a sled pulled by rabbits? Bilbo’s Contract? Much humor is much appreciated. Azog the Defiler?  I love the back-story of Thorin Oakenshield’s name  and the urgency the chase it adds to the movie’s plot. And the major complaint that people have about Jackson turning this into something other than a children’s story? Did you not have clue when Guillermo del Toro was one of the first people attached to it?

As for Les Misérables, it is indeed different from the original score, which, my children, is indeed, different from the original book. If you want to see the Broadway show, please do. It is amazing and I highly recommend it. But a Broadway show recreated on screen would be a dull, boring snooze-ville. And this movie was not. It was stunning to look at and emotionally wrenching. It was acting and singing and the ups and downs that come with this kind of an adaptation. I would see it again in a heartbeat but I have to re-hydrate first. My only complaint here was why, dear god, why Russell Crowe?

So, Hollywood keep it up. Make great movie adaptations but please pick people who love the books they are filming so that the key thing about the book is still in the movie, its heart.

So what about you? Are you Canon or No?

Thoughts on a Thursday: It Is About The Giving

This week and last week I have begun to see a lot a memes about what would we would like Santa to leave under our trees. We spend a lot of time making wish lists and coveting books and talking about how we can’t wait for this book or that and often forget that there are those for whom reading is a luxury. So today my thoughts are about giving and not getting; about how it won’t matter if e-readers kill paper books if no one is able to read them. With that in mind, this year instead of buying one book take that money and give it to one of these organizations which struggle to make sure that books and reading are and remain relevant.
  1. Behind the Book – “Behind the Book’s mission is to motivate young people to become engaged readers by connecting them to contemporary writers and illustrators. We bring authors and their books into individual classrooms to build literacy skills, and create a community of life-long readers and writers. Our programs take place in NYC’s underserved public schools, are part of the class curricula and meet the Common Core Standards. We believe that every student deserves the freedom that comes from the ability to read and think independently.”
  2. Book Aid International – Book Aid International increases access to books and supports literacy, education and development in sub-Saharan Africa. We provided 516,138 new books to over 2,000 libraries last year alone and have sent more than 30 million books to partner libraries since 1954.
  3. The Comic Book Project – The Comic Book Project engages children in a creative process leading to literacy reinforcement, social awareness, and character development, then publishes and distributes their work for other children in the community to use as learning and motivational tools.
  4. First Book – First Book President, Kyle Zimmer, founded First Book with two friends in 1992 to create an organization dedicated to providing new books to children in need. In that first year, First Book distributed 12,000 books in three communities – we are now proud to deliver more than 35,000 new books on average per day.
  5. Literacy for Incarcerated Teens (LIT) – Literacy for Incarcerated Teens, Inc. (LIT) is the only non-profit organization of its kind working to end illiteracy among New York’s incarcerated young people by inspiring them to read.
  6. Reading is Fundamental – Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) is the largest children’s literacy nonprofit in the United States. We prepare and motivate children to read by delivering free books and literacy resources to those children and families who need them most. We inspire children to be lifelong readers through the power of choice. RIF provides new, free books for children to choose from and make their own.
  7. Reach Out and Read –  Reach Out and Read is an evidence-based nonprofit organization that promotes early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud. Reach Out and Read builds on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers to develop critical early reading skills in children, beginning at 6 months of age.
  8. Room To Read – We envision a world in which all children can pursue a quality education, reach their full potential and contribute to their community and the world. To achieve this goal, we focus on two areas where we believe we can have the greatest impact: literacy and gender equality in education.  We work in collaboration with communities and local governments across Asia and Africa to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the life skills they’ll need to succeed in school and beyond.
  9. Set of school textbooks from Save the Children – It may seem a simple gift, but a school book is a very powerful way to help a child out of poverty. In poor countries, many families cannot afford textbooks, making it hard for a child to learn.  Your gift will help a child turn over a new page and receive a better education
  10. United Through Reading – United Through Reading is the nation’s first nonprofit to promote the read-aloud experience for separated military families.  United Through Reading offers deployed parents the opportunity to be video-recorded reading storybooks to their children which eases the stress of separation, maintains positive emotional connections and cultivates a love of reading.  At nearly 200 recording locations worldwide, Marines, Soldiers and Sailors, National Guard, Reservists and Airmen, can read to their children from units on ships, in tents in Afghanistan, on bases and installations around the world and at 70 USO centers worldwide.