cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Literature”

Shakespeare Goals


Although I’m known as a Bardinator, I confess I’m a bit of a poser in actuality.

I  truly know a handful of his plays, primarily the ones I teach, the usual: Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Julius Caesar, Othello, Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet. I do have a working knowledge of other plays: King Lear, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing , The Tempest, Merchant of Venice,Twelfth Night. And I have a nodding acquaintance with the Henrys and Richards. I tend to shudder and ignore the more violent plays where body parts and pies and such are a featured plot focus.

As for William’s sonnets–let’s just say while I’m not adverse to his verse, I prefer to revel in his plays.

So, my goal is to become more than a dabbler and get cracking at becoming better in my Bard. This will involve some serious study since Shakespeare is not for sissies. He provides stout meat and drink once at the table of literature feasting. I will *sigh* set aside some (not all) of my leisurely summer reading forays and bite off, rather than nibble, sizable portions of Shakespeare works.

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Here is a beginning goal list:

  • Select at least five-ten sonnets, mainly the ones we refer to in our current curriculum, and really study them beyond the quick note referring I usually do. Study what other critics have come up with in their analysis.
  • Move beyond my comfort zone and learn at least one play of William’s that I’m not familiar with. I’m still squeamish about reading about revenge pie, so perhaps I will look into a comedy not well known to me–maybe The Merry Wives of Windsor or As You Like It.

My basic Bard facts are decent: birth, death, family life, supposition of lost years. I even have Renaissance and Elizabethan knowledge down pretty well as it relates to Shakespeare. I could start committing more to memory and really dazzle the crowds.

Why take on Shakespeare this summer? I could just lounge and read for fun and drift and not work so hard. Didn’t I just get out of school?

One reason to push myself in this endeavor is that Shakespeare is so fascinating. I knew relatively nothing about him until I began teaching his works. For the past fifteen years I’ve learned so much more about the Bard and it makes me realize I have so much more to go. But, I’m in no real hurry.

Another reason is that if want to really become a Bardintor, not just pretend I know my Bard stuff. Please don’t expect me to spout off reams of memorized quotes and speeches. Memorizing, is unfortunately, a real problem. Short term gaps and all that.

One other reason is that I want to be THAT teacher, the one whose enthusiasm for Shakespeare overflowed into the curriculum and into the hearts and minds of my students. I still treasure that moment when one of my struggling students came up to me after class and said, “I will will studying Hamlet.” He got involved in our study of the melancholy Prince of Denmark, and that’s why I will learn more about Shakespeare.

Anyone out there desire a bit more Bard in your life?

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Lite vs Literary 


It’s often my dilemma when I’m shopping at my local library for my weekly rations of reading material: do I go lite or go literary?

Almost sounds like choosing cheesecake, doesn’t it? Go for less calories and sacrifice taste? It does apply to reading.

Before I offend too many people (hoping I haven’t offended anyone yet by saying your reading material choice is tasteless), let’s define literary merit. This is from a 2010 article by College Board’s Advanced Placement folk, the same people who run all those smartypants AP classes that students take and hope to learn enough to do well when they take those really tough and excruciating exams in May:

The Definition of Literary Merit in work of literature: 

  1. Entertains the reader and is interesting to read. 
  2. Does not merely conform to the expectations of a single genre or formula. 
  3. Has been judged to have artistic quality by the literary community (teachers, students, librarians, critics, other writers, the reading public). 
  4. Has stood the test of time in some way, regardless of the date of publication. 
  5. Shows thematic depth: themes merit revisiting and study because they are complex and nuanced.
  6. Demonstrates innovation in style, voice, structure, characterization, plot and/or description. 
  7. May have a social, political or ideological impact on society during the lifetime of the author or a erward. 
  8. Does not fall into the traps of “pulp” ction such as clichéd or derivative descriptions and plot devices, or sentimentality rather than “earned” emotion. 
  9. Is intended by the author to communicate in an artistic manner. 
  10. Is universal in its appeal (i.e., the themes and insights are not only accessible to one culture or time period.

My students tend to get in a snit when we start discussing novels appropriate for in-depth study which they can refer to on the May exam. Inevitably Harry Potter comes up. I’m certainly not passing judgement on the popular wizard-boy–I just hold the book up against the list. The snitting does not quell. Potter fans do not easily diminish their devotion. I always leave the decision up to them. After all, the exam is three hours and nearly a hundred dollars, if Harry means that much to them, they can exercise their option. Personally, if going for risky entries I would choose Bradbury’s F451. 

Back to my off duty reading choices. 

As an AP literature teacher, I try to practice what I teach. After a long and fulfilling week of extolling Hamlet to my students, I’m ready to unwind with a plot of my own selection. I have a long list of meritable titles I want and need to read, yet I’m sidetracked by titles that require minimal effort since the plot is as thin as the page it’s printed on. It’s rather nice not having to struggle through ponderous diction, and nuances of layered theme. Coasting and flipping. Much like reaching for that cheese danish when I should sit down to a salad.

I end up with a compromise. For every book that meets most of the Lit Mer test, I drop in a mystery or a Chick Lit, or a dystopian YA. Or even a Kid Lit because I have yet to fully embrace grown up reads as being my only option.

And I hope my students don’t surprise me in the checkout line. Then again maybe I would earn cool teacher points when they realize that reading is the ability of flexible options. That is nothing to be embarrassed about.Shakespeare does manage to find a way into my reading–be it historical or a plot where Ophelia finds herself a happy ending with Horatio.

POM: Yo–Shakespeare


I’m not aware of any other literary celebrity whose birth and death dates are the same day. That just Billy the Bard even more special, doesn’t it? This year is being touted as the Shakesyear, due to the span of 400 years  of celebrating his influence since his death in 1616. I certainly couldn’t let National Poetry Month slip by without celebrating Shakespeare on his birthday. Here is one of my favorite sonnets:

Sonnet 29 read by Matthew Macfayden

POM: April 18


The Brownings provided one the most moving romances in literature. Robert writes to Elizabeth first as a fan, then as an admirer, and finally as confident and husband. Although older and ill, Elizabeth escapes the oppression of her father’s household and elopes with Robert to Italy, living out the remainder of her days in the bliss of her husband’s love. Okay, it probably wasn’t that perfect, but I do get a bit sentimental when I read poetry. I didn’t want to investigate this particular poem. I didn’t want to pop the bubble of how enduring love  remains through time by discovering he wasn’t looking for Elizabeth. I also wanted to believe she was perhaps just visiting friends, or had popped out for a gelato and would return. It would be too sad to think that she had passed away and he kept looking for her throughout their house. *sniff* Now and then mushy stuff is good to feast on.  Hope you appreciate R.B.’s poem as much I do.

 

Love in a Life

Robert Browning, 18121889

Room after room,
I hunt the house through
We inhabit together.
Heart, fear nothing, for, heart, thou shalt find her,
Next time, herself!—not the trouble behind her
Left in the curtain, the couch’s perfume!
As she brushed it, the cornice-wreath blossomed anew,—
Yon looking-glass gleamed at the wave of her feather.

Yet the day wears,
And door succeeds door;
I try the fresh fortune—
Range the wide house from the wing to the centre.
Still the same chance! she goes out as I enter.
Spend my whole day in the quest,—who cares?
But ‘tis twilight, you see,—with such suits to explore,
Such closets to search, such alcoves to importune!

image: pintrest

Book Booster Beckonings


 

Book Booster

I have been quite remiss in my blog hostessing. Usually I invite new followers to add their name to the Book Booster roster. If you are a recent follower, please accept my apologies for not having invited you sooner. What’s a Book Booster? This is the detailed link and here is the short version:
Read books? Recommend books? Buy or checkout books by the armload? Have a TBR list and stack longer and taller than Superman can leap over in a single bound? Consider yourself a Book Booster and consider this your invite.

What are the benefits?
If you are hoping for a Barnes and Noble discount, I’m afraid the details are still sketchy on that one.
And reserved parking at the library is still being negotiated.
I am still working on that secret handshake.
However, you can revel in the knowledge you are in great company and you can spend hours clicking to connect with other Book Boosters.

While I can’t guarantee all the links are still active I can ensure you will no doubt discover a few new blogs to follow, and in turn they will no doubt find and follow you and that Six Steps Separation thing gets one step closer to becoming a big blogging bunch of Book Boosters.

What? You’re not on the list and you thought you were? I can fix that…

So send me your “Of course add me to the roster” approval and then it’s happy browsing.

Blue Skies and Happy Reading,

C. Muse

Blog Spotlight: Book to the Future


My latest spotlight is on another blogger whom I’ve exchanged commentaries since the beginning of my blogging foray.

In his own words:

Everyone calls me Ste J.
I am an obsessive book creature, in fact I spend more time between the (book) covers (I read in bed as well though) than I do with ‘real’ people.
Which means I probably spend more time with you guys than anyone else. Feel privileged.

Ste J is a bona fide bibliophiliac. He loves books. That’s a bonafide fact. Proof: he once read 100 books in 362 days, just to see if he could do it.  His blog is neatly organized into genre and with a mere click, a person can investigate reviews and titles. His tastes are eclectic, his insights meaningful, and his replies clever.

For a sampling of his classics page, click here.

Lately, his posts have wandered a bit off the original track of being primarily bookish in content and he writes on whim. I can relate.  I too have strayed from my original intent of providing astute book reviews that would dazzle and benefit bookdom and have taken to writing as serendipity taps the muse.

So, I hope you will check out Book to the Future and meet the intrepid Ste J, where as his banner states “more book than a mad ‘orse.”

Remaining the Orphaned Narrator


It is always exciting to discover a new-to-me author. In this case it’s Kazuo Ishiguro. I know, I know. I’m a bit late in my discovering; however, better late than never in finding an author of mesmerizing style.


I knew the movie Remains of the Day, before finding the novel and didn’t realize the movie was the adaptation.
How could I possibly pass up a film starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson?
Flash forward five years later and I’m perusing the AP Literature list (“read that one, will never read this one, not reading this one again”), when I recognized the title Remains of the Day and connected it to the movie. Then I read the author’s name and I must admit I expected something like Adrian Smythe or Winston Greene, not Kazuo Ishiguro. After all, the novel is about a very proper English butler and his reflections of what it takes to become the best of English butlers. Wouldn’t one need to be English to understand that sort of nationalistic pride? I’m not getting points here for narrow-minded thinking, am I?

It turns out Ishiguro is quite well-suited to the task of writing about the English since he moved to England when he was around six years old. This gives him the ability to have an insider’s view with a somewhat detached perspective. The result is  basically a stream-of-consciousness narrative concerning the tunnel vision of a man’s quest for the unattainable. Trying to live a life that is beyond reproach, to achieve a status of perfection, requires sacrifice. Can sacrifice be made without regret? This is the hidden truth Stevens, the butler is searching for, except he does not realize it.
A quest novel of notice did not go unnoticed, for Ishiguro’s debut garnered him the Man Booker Prize and set a bar. Would he be a one shot wonder or would this be the first work of a noteworthy word smith?

image: goodreads.com This cover indicates the layers found within the story.

My literary taste buds curious for more, I trotted down to the library. Grabbing any title of his that caught my eye on the  shelf, I opened up his fifth novel When We Were Orphans. I immersed myself in reading it to the point the MEPA queried, “Still a good book?” Yes, thank you. Prognosis? After reading two novels, indications are Ishiguro is wordsmithing wonder.

Here are some bio facts and  stats:

  • Two novels have been adapted to the screen, Remains of the Day, and the more recent Never Let Me Go. Both have been received well, considering Ishiguro’s stories are mainly first person narratives, making them difficult to translate into a cinematic plot.
  • His novels are historical in nature, with attention to detail.
  • The stylistic viewpoint is that of the unreliable first-person narrator, one who is flawed in outlook.
  • Although born in Japan, he did not return until thirty years later.
  • He has received four Man Booker Prize nominations
  • The Times ranked him 32 on the list of the 50 most influential British writers since 1945.

As for an actual review of When We Were Orphans, I leave it to the more qualified:
New York Times
 review:

I plan on continuing my course of exploring Ishiguro’s work and look forward to introducing a contemporary author to my APters, who, I’m sure, would like a break from dead white folk now and then.

Any thoughts on Ishiguro’s writing? Any suggestions for the next title I should read of his?

Way Too Cool Library(ians)


I am a bona fide bibliophile. I not only love (phile) books (biblio) I adore all that  is connected to them: writing, reading, bookstores, and libraries. If we go on vacation I seek out the library. Some seek out shopping, eating, beaching, hiking, or cycling–I seek out reading. My idea of the perfect vacation tour would be to visit libraries all around the world.  The cool part about libraries is the librarians. There are plenty of movies about super heroes as well as super agents, along with super smart folk who solve crime, save the world, etc.–but rarely is the librarian given credit where credit is due. Being a librarian at heart, I had a fair amount of fun watching The Librarian series–all that knowledge put to good use saving the world. Yeah, librarians do have skills.

image: pinterest.com

Libraries around the world preview:

  • clementinum int 10 of the world's most spectacular libraries

    This is in Prague. Oh, yes, I do want to go. I do. I do.

Neil Gaiman: Why We Need Libraries


  • image: greenbaywriters.wordpress.com

Neil Gaiman is one of those buzzword authors. Unfortunately, I have not harkened to becoming a reader of his works. I have tried, really I have. However, I do perk up when it comes to successful authors speaking up about reading, particularly about libraries. Last year, Gaiman spoke eloquently about the need for libraries and the lecture,  “Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming” was reprinted in The Guardian.  

Excerpt:

The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.

Another excerpt:

Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before – books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internet connections, can go online without paying anything: hugely important when the way you find out about jobs, apply for jobs or apply for benefits is increasingly migrating exclusively online. Librarians can help these people navigate that world.

  • image: pinterest.com

Check out the lecture. You will be cheering by the end of reading it. You might even feel like running down to your library and say to it, “Thanks for being here.” Don’t forget to hug and a librarian and say the same.

Life Long Loving of the Library of Congress


Main Library of Congress building at the start...

Main Library of Congress building at the start of the 20th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And yet another reason I continue my praises of the Library of Congress. In recent Internet research sleuthing I stumbled across their Festival Author Booklist. Yippee! I love bookish gatherings, especially when I don’t have to do much traveling to enjoy it.  If you do want to travel, then get your arrangements made for Washington D.C. because that’s the happening spot. Last year the festival ran the weekend of September 21 and 22.  For more information: National Book Festival

Author and Reading Celebration

Since 2001,  authors, illustrators and poets make presentations on the National Mall in various pavilions. In 2013 over a 100 authors represented  Teens & Children, Fiction & Mystery, History & Biography, Contemporary Life, Poetry & Prose, Graphic Novels & Science Fiction and Special Programs.

Library of Congress Pavilion

If a person has longing to know all about the Library of Congress, then a visit to their LOC Pavilion is in order. There is so much moAt the Library of Congress Pavilion than books.

Wait!

There is more bookish good stuff from the LOC. Want handy access to classic reads? Then you need to click on the Read.gov link and start enjoying a range of reading from the John Carter series to Aesop Fables and what lies in between.

Contest!

Are you a teacher, a parent? If books are an important part of your education input, you will want to perk up and take time to read the guidelines about the LOC contest Letters About Literature.  Prizes too! I look forward to introducing this to my students.

Stay tuned for more love notes about the nation’s library.

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