cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Literature”

Literary Book Boosters


I am a professed Book Booster, and most, if not all of you, reading my musings enjoy reading as well. Glad you’re here, and thanks for dropping by.

As I close out the  year, I wanted to give more than a  nod to Book Boosters found in literature. These are characters whose love of reading defines them and is central to the plot.

1. Scout Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird

Image result for scout of to kill a mockingbird

image: Houston Chronicle

Her love of reading gets her in trouble with the teacher on the first day of school because a first grader isn’t supposed to read yet–according to Miss Caroline. That’s the teacher’s job, as Scout finds out. Scout and Jem are always referring to books, often they become the object of bets made. The novel ends with Atticus and Scout reading The Grey Ghost (a definite correlation to Boo) as they wait for Jem to recover.

2. Jo March of Little Women

Image result for Jo March reading

image: Pintrest

Jo’s love of stories, both reading and writing them, propel her towards her goal if becoming an author.

3. Guy Montag of Fahrenheit 451

Image result for Guy Montag reading

image: lecinemadreams.blogspot.com

Guy Montag goes from book burner to book booster as he discovers the powerful message of allowing one’s imagination to roam unfettered. Reading books has him questioning the government’s oppressive rule over people’s freedom. He is willing to die for his love of books.

3. Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey

Image result for catherine morland northanger abbey reading

image: Pintresst

Catherine’s fascination with Gothic romances fuels her imagination to the point of her concocting a horrible family secret that brings shame and ridicule upon her and jeopardizes her future. Jane Austen obviously had some fun poking fun at the Gothic romance trend of her day.

4.  Liesel Meminger of The Book Thief

Image result for Liesel Meminger of The Book Thief

image: Wiki

Liesel’s hunger for books leads her to steal them from a private library. The need to read becomes life-threatening when Hitler locks down on Germany’s freedom of expression during WWII. Liesel’s love of reading becomes her solace during the horrendous experiences of the war.

5. Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables

 

Image result for Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables reading

image: anneofgreengables.com

Fiery-haired and a fiery disposition fuels Anne towards her goal of taking her imagination and putting her ideas to paper. This beloved series captures the natural relationship between reading and writing.

BOOK BOOSTER CALL OUT…
I know there are more literature loving characters out there. This is where you chime in: who do you nominate needing a nod as a Literary Book Booster?

Review Round Up


This last month has definitely been hodgish-podgish in reading. I’m transitioning from summer reading to preparing for school while trying to wrap up a major writing project. This involves reading for fun, reading for class, and reading for facts. I’m a bit dizzified at the stretch of diversity. Here are the top reads from this last month:

Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey

image: GoodReads

I picked this up along with Tey’s Daughter of Time, which was about Richard III. In the back of my mind nudged the basic plot of Brat Farrar. I hadn’t read it, or had I? I seemed to know how it was going to turn out. Than the “aha” tinkle bell sounded. I had watched it as a BBC series, ages ago. Books are always different from the film adaptation, and as I became more involved in the story I realized I didn’t remember the ending after all. I do so enjoy books, especially mysteries that I can’t guess the ending. Tey does an excellent job of twisting and turning the plot. One of the most satisfying reads of the summer. Intrigue, betrayal, double identities, red herrings, hinted romance, and horses–I’m trying to find the BBC series now.

 

 

My Memoirs

 by Alexandre Dumas

image: GoodReads

The man who brought The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask didn’t just write about adventures, he lived them. As part of of my author/cat project, I needed to read up on Dumas and found a slim adapted volume of his memoirs (the original ran to about thirty). He accounts for his life just up to the point of receiving acclaim for his novels. Like all really great biographies featuring rags to riches stories, Dumas begins his story sadly. His father, a Creole general in Napoleon’s army is tossed into prison, and upon release his health fails and dies when Dumas is four. Thrown into poverty, he, along with his mother and sister moves in with his grandparents. From their Dumas recounts how he preferred hunting to school and eventually makes his way to Paris with hopes of becoming a playwright. He brashly secures a clerk position in order to pay bills, while still trying to get his plays published. With success comes recognition and a life filled with all sorts of escapades including involvement in a revolution and a duel. I better understand why the action in his books is so mesmerizing–he knew adventure first hand.

Everything’s An Argument by Andrea Lunsford

26872224

image: GoodReads

Okay, so reading a textbook may not be on your TBR list. If I wasn’t slated to teach AP Language for the first time I probably wouldn’t have read this book either. Teaching AP Lang is going to be very, very different for me. I’m not a huge nonfiction reader, only doing so for research, not so for pleasure. Yet, as I waded into this book I became more fascinated by the fact that everything truly is an argument. We live in a world where everyone is trying to convince someone of their point of view and there are strategies for doing so. If interested in learning more how you are influenced, I’d suggest this as a means of getting more insight in how argument is something we need to reckon with.

A Frosty Choice


Two roads diverged in a wood, and I

And I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Ah, Frost’s famous lines that celebrate and embrace individualism. The encouragement to go against the grain, to strive beyond mediocrity, to go where few have bothered to travel. It’s the stuff of graduation speeches, self-help tomes, greeting cards, posters, coffee mugs, t-shirts, and it even helps to sell cars.
According to David Orr in his literary/biography/analysis, The Road Not Taken, we have got it all wrong. The subtitle clues us in: Finding America in the Poem Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong. 

Surprise Reading*

In Orr’s introduction he asserts and emphasizes that the roads are equally traveled, that the two roads are interchangeable. The speaker admits the other road “just as fair” and “the passing there/Had worn them really about the same…” The speaker further notes: “And both that morning equally lay/In leaves no step had trodden black.”

To me it’s all saying: “Hey, which way should I go? I have no idea. They look both the same.”

David Orr would tell us this is perhaps right, then again maybe not. After all, poetry is a matter of perspective. He states that the poem “is a literary oddity and a philosophical puzzle, but more than anything else it’s a way of framing the paradoxical and massively influential culture in which it both begins and ends.”

Maybe Orr is the only one who does get it right because after reading his illuminating, worthwhile, and fascinating treatise on Frost’s poem, I still think it’s all about making choices and living out the decisions we’ve made–no regrets.

Then again, Frost might be having the last laugh. Apparently the poem is his gentle poke at how his good friend, Edward Thomas, a British poet, had considerable difficulties selecting which way to go when he and Frost would ramble around the English countryside together. Thomas would lament how the other direction had just as many lovely sights to see. In other words, they were both good choices, yet Thomas always felt a bit of regret for not having gone the other way. It seems Frost’s poem gently chides his friend to be happy with the choice made, to be satisfied.

Frost’s poem is perhaps not so much a celebration of marching boldly through the tangled bracken of life, tripping over logs of distraction and despair, rather it’s a quiet reflection of accepting the road that is taken, and not lamenting over the one that was not taken.

Overall, for such a slim volume (weighing in less than 200 pages), it is filled with solid bits of reflective insights:

  • Frost originally titled the poem “Two Roads”–that changes things, a bit.
  • He specifically used roads, not paths and emphatically noted the difference upon hearing someone begin a recitation replacing “paths” for “roads.”
  • This is very much an American poem, written by an American poet extolling the ponderation of choice, something Americans have historically and culturally embraced, yet the poem is based upon a time when Frost resided in England.
  • Frost admitted that he did not always consciously make  decisions: “I never know what is going to happen next because I don’t dare to let myself formulate a foolish hope.”
  • I learned about “confabulation”–the concept about artful lying (my interpretation).
  • The big question Orr asks is this: if we don’t know why we made the decision, is the choice made a meaningful one?
  • Frost liked being a bit of a mystery to his public and biographers, which is reflected in his poetry.
  • The poem might also have its foundation upon an actual incident where Frost was walking upon a road and met a man coming in the other diection. Frost felt this man to be his mirror image and should they converge and intersect he would grow stronger in his last part of his journey home.
  • The poem, its twenty or so lines, is considered one of the most popular pieces of literature written by an American–Google search stats tells us so.

It’s said that while William Wordsworth desired his poetry to be of a man speaking to men, wanting to speak lyrically from experience, from the heart, Robert Frost, asserts Orr, wanted to speak with men. Frost included the reader in his metered musings by having a conversation with us. I think Frost wanted to assert a warmth in poems by including us into his writing, which he achieved with his casual conversational tone and second person pronoun usage. His writings remain popular because they are so relatable. He includes us, wanting us to share in his experience.

If allowed, I would like to celebrate and propose this thought: combine two of Fost’s popular poems. Take  the individualism “The Road Not Taken” inspires and the idea of sharing the decision of choice with the reader, and add in the joy of  discovery found in “The Pasture,” so that the universality of realizing we are all on a journey together is made more readily apparent.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I

And I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference–you come, too.

 

*BtW: am I the only one who realizes YouTube videos can’t be uploaded unless I upgrade my plan?  Huh? When did that happen?

Oh, for a muse of fire


As an senior English teacher I have the distinction of being the last of a long acquaintance with school literature for my students. Many, if not most students, come in with a surly attitude about English. My goal is to get that frown turned upside down. While I don’t resort to extremes, I have been known for some surprising antics to liven up class. I inject movie clips, silly voices, and theatre activities into the lesson plan.

I enjoy teaching English because I’m actually a librarian at heart (budget cuts). To infuse the love of books is a mission, not a vocation.

At the end of the month my students will have studied a handful of sonnets, examined three Shakespeare plays, watched one live performance of Hamlet, analyzed two of the Bard’s speeches, and have performed one of the speeches from a play. They will be so full of Shakespeare at the end of this unit they will leak iambic pentameter onto their desks. This might cause consternation with the custodians, yet it is all part of my mission to turn these Bardihators into Bardinators. I would be Bardilating even if it wasn’t Shakesyear.

My extra effort Barding might be paying off; I think I might be making headway. We began with Taming of the Shrew, a farce that they could relate to because of Ten Things I Hate About You, and then we went onto a tragedy. I surprised them with Othello, a complicated study of villains and heroes and racial issues that resonates with my students even after 400 years it was first performed.

We moved onto my personal faborite: Hamlet. We explored the first eleven lines together and they realized Shakespeare’s language does not present the barrier they thought they would encounter. We preparedfor the climatic duel of act five by going outside andlearning  stagecraft fighting with duct-taped yardsticks.

I teach the same lesson six times, slightly modified, due to being the only senior English teacher this year, so my Shakespearience becomes even more enriched over the years because the math computes to a lot of repetition of knowledge. I’ve always said the best education I’ve received is from teaching. 

As for students and their absorption of English? I wonder how much impact I will have. Will students fondly or disdainfully remember my efforts to interject the muse of Shakespeare’s fire into their lives? Will there be Renaissance Man moment, when they will recite a few lines or carry the meaning of a studied play with them into their future life? I hope so.

For now, my librarian-teacher  heart will continue to thrill when students make comments like: “I really like this. I really like digging into this Shakespeare stuff.”

My fire is amused.

image: pintrest

Reader Round Up: TAB Syndrome


Upfront and personal: I am not a quitter.

I will gamely finish the less-than-savory pasta I paid for at the overrated restaurant, keep eating salad until the last of the holiday pounds melt away, and keep grading essays until my eyeballs roll around to the back of my head.

I stick to it. Just so you know.

That being said. I am struggling with my reading habits these days. I used to stick with a book, even if it took me days and weeks to soldier on, I would finish it, gritting teeth if necessary (Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady comes to mind). Lately, I give a book approximately five chapters, roughly a hundred pages, before I judge and jury it back into the library bag for prompt return. My dilemma is this: Would a true Book Booster succumb to TAB Syndrome? Is it acceptable that I wontly and willingly set aside a chosen read and it becomes The Abandoned Book?

Maybe it’s because I realize there are so many books out there waiting for me. Why should I commit to reading something that I really don’t like? Frank Zappa, of all people, is credited with saying:

I have dismissed the following books in the last couple of months.

Starlight on Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs.

 

image: amazon.com

My mom recommended this author. Often. Frequently. *sigh* Trying to be the good daughter,  I gave it go. Mom and I have different tastes in reading. I toss out titles to her. She tries them and politely responds how the book didn’t quite work for her. This time she tossed out an author to me.  Apparently Susan Wiggs is a popular, best selling author of over 35 books. I had no idea. A whole shelf is dedicated to her novels at our library, or at least ones that haven’t been checked out.

This particular plot focuses on a mother embittered by life since she is now a quadriplegic from a skiing accident that also killed her husband. Her three children are all successful and have aptly provided for her–she is at odds with the oldest son who would rather send a check than visit with mumsy. Mums burns through caretakers like bees flit through a garden. This is where the underdog caretaker is hired. There is also the cold, yet efficient assistant/fiancee to said distant son. I knew where this was going after I read the blurb. I would have hung in there, as I don’t mind the romantic trope of jerk-son-gets-bested-and-turned-around-by-single-mother-with-a-heart-of-gold-who-has- two-extremely-needy-daughters plot. I’m not terribly prudish, yet when everyone starting dropping profanity as if the educated 10% do so because it must be oh-so-cool, I thought “Five chapters–I’m out of here.” Sorry, Mom.

Next up was an AP recommended author I’ve been putting off reading because his writing style is so Joycian. I don’t mind creativity, but I do like commas and other regular punctuation. Emily D is an exception–dash it all, I can handle her penchant for pause for something as short as her poetry. An entire novel of creative punctuation is too much for this English teacher.  So I got Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses as an audio book. If I can’t see the punctuation misdemeanors I can simply focus on the story. Wrong.

I really like John Grady Cole. He reminds me a bit of a young Paul Newman in his cool, calm and collected approach to life. I even tolerated Lacey’s potty mouth because his colorful vernacular was such a part of who is. He probably couldn’t talk if a swear word wasn’t in there. Plus, the audio book reader was talented at creating distinctive characters. I hung with Horses until John Grady and Lacey get hired at the Mexican ranch. As soon as the boss’s daughter arrives on the scene I couldn’t bear the heartache of watching John go down as he fell for her. I became too attached. Maybe I’ll watch the movie. I can always fast forward Matt Damon’s pain.

 

 A student wanted to do David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas for his Author Spotlight and I try to check out what my students are reading. I tried to get involved in the book, the premise sounds fascinating; however, I couldn’t get past the guy sifting the rocks for cannibal teeth so he could make dentures for a high society lady and then tell her that she was chewing with said teeth. Too gruesome for me. I might give it go sometime, someday because the switched storyline style intrigues me. There is also the movie.

I have abandoned other books. Not often, but I do. I don’t feel this guilt out ejecting a movie from the DVD player. Somehow setting aside a book is like walking away from a conversation. It feels rather rude. I’m working on casting off this guilt. There are, after all, so many other conversations waiting for me out there.

Anyone else struggle with TAB Syndrome?

 

 

Book Booster Spotlight


Around four years ago when I began this blog I set up a page dedicated to collecting Book Boosters.  The qualifications were fairly simple:

Do you love books?

Do you have favorites you read, recommend, and even re-read?

Are you a frequent flyer at the local library?

Are you an on-line regular of book sites, be they promoting to buy, review, or boast books?

Perchance you operate on a need to read basis–you have to have a book in hand, by the bed, stashed in the car, or have one nestled in the backpack.

You then, my friend, are a Book Booster. And you are in good company. Add your name to the list and welcome to the shelf of those who appreciate and advance the cause of books.

To date there are around 70 Book Boosters. There are no secret handshakes, no monthly meetings. I have considered t-shirts and bumper stickers.  As a thanks for taking the public step as a proclaimed bibliophile, I shall spotlight a random Book Booster.

This month’s BB Spotlight is:

Tish Farrell

Portland 6 (2)

In her own words:

Being a writer can be wretched. (What did Douglas Adams say about it: staring at the page until your eyes bleed?) So in an attempt to stop my eyes bleeding, or my brain exploding I thought I would use this blog to write about the place where I am now (Shropshire) and the places where I used to be (Kenya). Sometimes they get mixed up together. But that doesn’t matter. Anyway, the literary analysts tell us that creating a convincing setting, that telling sense of place through which the human action threads and is revealed is crucial to any story – non fiction or fiction. So these are my practice pieces, then; a fending off of writer’s block perhaps. Who knows? Other stories might spring from them.

Tish also provides amazing photos. I especially appreciate her Kenya shares, as I doubt I will ever make that journey.

Are you interested in proclaiming your love of books, your need to read? Leave your name and I will gladly add you to the growing list of Book Boosters, and who knows you too might find yourself as a featured BB Spotlight in the near future.

 

 

A Bit of Book Botherment


As much I proclaim to be a Book Bookster, I fear I’m not a proper one, for if I was,  wouldn’t I be scandalously boring about reminding everyone that September was National Get a Library Month (“get carded at your local library”) or that October was National Book Month? I’m not fully living up to my potential. I’m hoping it’s okay that I just read and blog about what I’m reading. Guilt does overtake me now and then that I should be organizing parties and perpetuating cute little cookies in the shapes of books or something. Perhaps I need one of those calendars that they tend to pin on the wall in the staff bathroom that spouts when it’s national Eat a Chili Pepper Day or National Hug Your Bank Teller Day. There must be a calendar app just for bibliophiles.

However-

In an attempt to make amends for not noticing October was National Book Month, I will reprint an article about books that have influenced a batch of Ted Educators. We do like our Ted Talkers.

If I were a Ted Educator and someone did ask me about a book which had influenced me, I would wholeheartedly reply: To Kill a Mockingbird for the reason that having read it I keep passing on my passion for it on to my students. It’s not just required reading. It’s required to read to understand our US country’s history better and how Jim Crow laws affect who we are today, and how walking around in someone else’s shoes should be a lifestyle commitment not just the answer to the question on the test of “name a famous Atticus quote.” I know the book makes a difference in my students’ lives because when they return to me three years later as seniors that unequivocally agree that TKAM  is “such a great book.”

As to the idea of books making a difference or creating an impact in live I provide for your entertainment and enlightenment John Green’s list of books he appreciates.

 

So, by the by–which book has changed your life? Or is there a book you want everyone to go and read right now?

A Bard In Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush or There’s No Bardness Like Slow Bardness


Shocking. The tremors from the announcement that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival will be futzing with the Bard are rippling through out various literary communities. It’s one thing to sneak No Fear Shakespeare into the classroom when teaching Hamlet  and company to students, it’s quite another to go to the theater and pay good money to hear modernity instead of Bardinator verse. If you haven’t heard the news, hear it here: Shakespeare is undergoing translation, and yes, I do believe something will be lost along the way.

“I suspect that Shakespeare himself, in his eagerness to reach audiences, would be perplexed by the idea that our job today is to settle for only half understanding his work. Let’s embrace Shakespeare for real and let him speak to us.”

So says Dr. McWhorter who teaches linguistics, American studies, philosophy and music at Columbia University.

Just because we haven’t kept up with Old English doesn’t mean it should be changed to meet our needs. There are plenty of analysis experts who have provided handy translations of Shakespeare’s works. We just need to take the time to read them. Or better yet, figure it out on our own. It’s called learning.

What really concerns me is if this could be a trend towards other changes. Sophocles? That old dead writer of Mediterranean vintage who wrote about the son who inadvertently married his mother? Yeah, it’s Greek to me too–better change it up so we can understand his plays. Then there is Emily Dickinson. Dash it all, she really doesn’t understand how to properly use punctuation, better to get grammar check suggestions for her. She’s still in public domain, so she won’t mind. Honestly, if we quietly allow Shakespeare to be mucked about with and don’t fuss about how *presto chango* his beautiful verse and prose gets shazzamed into everyday slings and arrows, then we will surely watch all the old classics become literature lite. Less calories, less filling.

How do you feel about those Oregon Shakespeare folk messing about with Shakespeare?

Here’s the article. Let me know what you think. *grumble grr*

Me thinks it’s piteous to mess with the muse.

image: morguefile/johninportland TRANSLATION: Roses are the prettiest flower out there. Nope, it just don’t float.

Those Thrifty, Nifty Dover Classics


For those of us who splurge and buy books to hoard on our shelves so we always have a lovely bit of paged delight at our fingertips, probably don’t consider the paperback, easy-on-the-pocketbook editions of Dover as ones we trot out and buy. Yet, I imagine most of us Book Boosters, really and truly appreciate that Dover does provide under $6.00 editions of classics.  As a teacher on a tight budget, I’m thrilled I can get a class set of Hamlet for under $40.00.

What is Dover all about? Well, the good folks at School Library Journal took time to find out by interviewing their editor-in-chief,  M.C. Waldrep. One of the takeaways from the interview is that among the top four classics that sell are Frankenstein, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and The Adventures of Huck Finn.  Shakespeare is right up there, of course.

For more Dover insights check out the interview.

BtW: Dover is more than providing classics for the economic minded. They have a ready collection of coloring books for that new trend (or old trend renewed). They have initiated the first National Coloring Book Day which you can anticipate by sharpening up your Crayolas when August 2 arrives. More on the coloring craze is found here.

What Dover classics are roaming your shelves, backpack, or are fondly remembered from your school days?

Better yet, which Dover classic would you slip in as a stocking stuffer?

28211-2_3D43215-7_3D

Oh de plume


Being a gregarious hermit means I have moments of friendly banter mixed with overpowering needs to keep myself to myself. This is why I hide behind my plumey of Cricket Muse. I chirp when in the mood, and spend the rest of the time ensconced thoughtfully in my little world of teaching, reading, and writing.

I have played around with what my pen name should actually be. So far I’ve been published under three. The Chicken Soup people wouldn’t let me publish my essay on “Piece of Quiet” as Cricket Muse–too, umm, cute. They did relinquish under my compromise of C. Muse. Friends and family responded with “why”? As in why not use my real name. I guess I could have used my own name, but where’s the mystery in that?  I am in good company. Look at these wonderful authors and their real names. See–it worked for them.

          Name               Nom de plume                           
  1.  Anne Bronte–Acton Bell
  2. Benjamin Franklin–Alice Addertongue
  3. Anton Chekov–Antosha Chekhonte
  4. Charles Dickens–Boz
  5. C.S. Forester–Cecil Smith
  6. C.S. Lewis–Clive Hamilton
  7. Charlotte Bronte–Currier Bell
  8. Washington Irving–Diedrich Knickerbocker
  9. Ray Bradbury–Douglas Spalding
  10. L. Frank Baum–Edith Van Dyne
  11. Emily Bronte–Ellis Bell
  12. Eric Arthur Blair–George Orwell
  13. Georges Remi–Herge
  14. James Alfred Wight —James Herriot
  15. Michael Crichton-John Lange
  16. Daniel Handler–Lemony Snicket
  17. Agatha Christie–Mary Westmacott
  18. Edna St. Vincent Millay–Nancy Boyd
  19. Isaac Asimov–Paul French
  20. Hector Hugh Munro–Saki
  21. Stanley Martin Lieberman–Stan Lee
  22. Victoria Lucas–Sylvia Plath
  23. Francois-Marie Arouet–Voltaire
  24. William S. Burroughs–William Lee
  25. Vladimir Sirin–Vladimir Nabokov

While I figure out under what name my masterpiece shall be published, I will keep playing with possibilities. I found the nifty pseudonym generator. So far I like:

Dewey Raferty

Grange Moser

Dalli Easton

Here: give it spin and see what you come up with…and do share it you get a doozer.

Name Generator

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: