My Required Reading

26 01 2007

I’ve been reading, but nothing that appears in my sidebar.  Those have been put aside.  Even the David Sedaris binge has stopped (dramatic sigh).

No, I’ve been doing my “Required Readings” for school.  Is there anything on earth more boring than most course’s “Required Readings”?  English can be the major exception to this, but you have to find yourself in the right class and with the right professor.  Not like my horrendous Eunuch in Literature class (shudder).  I only went through two of them before I dropped it, but in that case it was an awful prof who picked ridiculous theoretical texts and neglected the literature in a literature class till the end of the semester.  I dropped it, getting myself into something much more sensible: women’s speculative fiction.  Not much better you say?  Well, there’s no accounting for some people’s tastes.*

My point – and I do have one and it wasn’t be alarming or earth-shattering when I do get to it in let’s say four more words – is that all that required reading usually keeps me from the reading I really want to be doing.  Dave Eggers is on the self, about a third done, and I go to pick it up and then the little angel on my right shoulder slaps my hand and tells me to pick up my Special Education textbook.  I spot Dress Your Family in Corduory and Denim in another corner and my hand starts itching to pick it up and the little angel on my left should starts shaking her head and clicking her tongue and points out stack of articles to get through.

Where’s the little devil when you need one?

Footnote:

1. The class was actually fantastic and I got an article published based on work I did in the course.  My first article.  No, actually it would be my second.  My first one was in a big city newspaper about back-to-school make-up trends.   Judge me if you will, but it did get my name in print.





A Re-Do

20 01 2007

Now, I’ve heard it all. No regrets. No looking back. No what-might-have-beens.

And, yes, there is some sense in it. On a logical level, I understand that I’ve need to do everything I’ve done and gone through everything I’ve gone through to get to where I am right now.

All the same, there are some things that if I had a chance to do again I would do differently. At the top of that re-do list is my degree.

If I had it to do all over again, I would never have gone through for English.

That’s probably a shocking thing for a self-professed book junkie to confess (nevermind one who got the PhD level), but there you have it. That’s my biggest re-do.

Why?

Primarily because it changed the way I read. Why did I choose English as a major in the first place? Because I loved reading. But is English the best major for someone who loves reading. Well, that depends. It depends on what you want to do which I didn’t know at the time so it seemed the best choice. Do something you enjoy. I’ve still an advocate of that, but in a different, more realistic or common sense kind of way.

Where was I? Oh yes, I wouldn’t do an English degree again because it changed the way I read. For some time it was impossible for me to read for pleasure. I couldn’t shut off the analytical side of my brain that I had paid ten of thousands of dollars to develop. As a student, I fought the annihilation of a text tooth and nail. There were students who ripped a book to shreds, others who were more careful, peeling back the skin and then dissecting it, but the result was always the same: a massacre. I never got to that stage; I never took apart the pieces and forgot the whole. I never used a book to illustrate a particular critical theory, but rather used the theory to support something I saw happening in the book or a point I was trying to make.* But all the same, my ability to get-lost-in-a-good-book vanished as soon as I started my first year survey course. It got to the point that I couldn’t even read Harry Potter (which for awhile was my one refuge) without plotting ideas for seminars and essays.

It has lessened over time, now that I’m away from having to come up with essay and seminar ideas on a daily basis. And that feels good; it feels liberating.

And yet, it still isn’t the same. There isn’t that same intense joy of musty smells and cracking spines as a fourteen-year-old me sits down for an afternoon to be spellbound by Wuthering Heights or deliriously lost in The Blue Castle.

Yes, maybe it’s age and the increased consciousness and all that malarkey. The logical part of my brain will acknowledge that.

Then again, when in doubt, blame the English Degree. It’s such a useful excuse for so many things.*

[Those Silly] Footnotes:

*1: I’ve always thought the book came before the theory, like the horse before the cart, and even though my grad school profs rapped my knuckles to beat that backwards out of me, it’s one of those old-fashion ideas I cannot shake.

*2: It’s a particularly useful excuse for having no career prospects and no common sense.





The Red Light District

17 01 2007

No, I haven’t disappeared for months on end again. Just been a bit busy. With school and snow and slush and sleeplessness caused by prostitues (hence the title). It was the school and the snow and slush that lead to the the whole encouter with the prostitutes.

Perhaps I should explain before you start looking at me oddly. Too late, you say? Pity.

To make a long story short, I decided to stay in a hotel on Sunday evening instead of driving through slush and snow that Mr. Weatherman was threatening us with. Being El Cheapo Jr. (Handy Papa has the Sr. title), I went with the cheapest motel I could find online. When said hotel turned out to be next to a Strip Club, well, it was my own foolish penny pinching that lead me there.

It wasn’t that bad, really it wasn’t.

Not until I was awoken at 4am by a “Lady of the Night” and her drunken client discussing rates quite loudly right out my door. I try to be open-minded in that do-what-you-have-to-do kind of way, but it was 4 in the morning and the conversation just got yucky from there (I’ll spare you that). I didn’t get much sleep after that. More “people” coming and going.

Sometimes you get what you pay for.





Required Reading

11 01 2007

I don’t do a lot of linking to other blogs. You might have noticed that. There’s a few I read on a regular basis, but I’m always a bit fearful of discovering someone new. How very backwards of me, I know. But time can be limited and if there’s any hope of actually reading my Educational Psychology textbook, then I can’t be exposed to tons of blogs, which are – let’s face it – much more fun and engaging and (too often) educational than your standard Ed Psych textbook.

Today, though, I clicked on a link and was immediately immersed in the entries on Ungrateful Dumpling.

I went through a difficult patch. I’ve referred to it – albeit briefly – in a couple of entries. I’m not ready or I just don’t want to revisit it yet – or maybe ever. That’s still open for discussion. I was confused, lost, broken.

To put it simply: For most of my life, I had faith – not in a religious way – but faith in life, and then I lost it.

The good news, the really good news is I found my way back. I shake my head sometimes because the person I was just over a year ago is someone I can’t even recognize now.

Something in the entries at Ungrateful Dumpling spoke to me so profoundly about that time, about the time just an instant before the end of that time, the moment when I started to feel the change coming, the moment just before the darkness subsided, the moment when I had to have the most faith that the light would come again.

So required reading: Ungrateful Dumpling. He puts it much more eloquently than I ever could.





Why do I have to learn this?

8 01 2007

It’s a question I encounter far too often, particularly in the Essay Writing Course I teach. It’s taught at a college and most of the students can see the merit in maybe a business writing course or a communication course, but essay writing they just can’t see the sense of.

There’s lots of answers to this question. Most often I go with the way the knowledge can be applied to other situations since they don’t seem to make those connections on there own. I try to avoid the philosophical angle. They just look at you funny.

So my answer to them will remain unchanged, but in my head I’ll be thinking this:

When asked “What do we need to learn this for?” any high-school teacher can confidently answer that, regardless of the subject, the knowledge will come in handy once the student hits middle age and starts working crossword puzzles in order to stave off the terrible loneliness. Because it’s true. Latin, geography, the gods of ancient Greece and Rome: unless you know these things, you’ll be limited to doing the puzzles in People magazine, where the clues read “Movie title, Gone ______ the Wind” and “It holds up your pants.” It’s not such a terrible place to start, but the joy of accomplishment wears off fairly quickly. ~ “21 Down” by David Sedaris





Back to reality

8 01 2007

Tomorrow means the end of my holidays.  Back to school so posting might become sporadic at best – though I do have the best of intentions* to post regularly.

I intended to have a restful day, but there was so much stuff to get together and get done – the mandatory walk round the river to take, muffins to be made, bags to pack, emergency car kit to prepare (since I’m commuting back and forth this term and we live in a supposed snow belt), resumes and cover letters to update for upcoming career fairs, and two new recipes to try out at dinner.  All of that accomplished and I still had time to squeeze in 30 minutes of writing.

Well, looking over the list, I certainly feel like I accomplished a lot.  Now if I’d only left myself time for a proper rest…

Notes:

1. Yes, I am familiar with what they say about good intentions and the road to hell.  I’m just trying to think more optimistically.  If I made New Year’s Resolutions, that would definitely have been #3 – think good thoughts.





Confession

6 01 2007

I have a bit of a confession to make.

For the past few days I’ve been obsessed with reading anything by David Sedaris.  His essays have brought so much joy to my life (yes, feel free to look at me strangely – the Handy Papa certainly did when I said something along those lines last night as a way of explaining why I can’t stop laughing out loud while reading).

My favourite so far: “Us and Them.”  And if I ever get get stuck with my lesson planning I’ve got an excellent back-up plan thanks to “The Learning Curve” in Me Talk Pretty One Day.   I’d say what that back-up is, but I don’t want to ruin it and besides I couldn’t do the story credit.  Just run out and get a copy if you don’t have one yet though it’s probably just me that’s been living under a rock and has made it this long without reading anything by David Sedaris.

I have to give credit where credit is due – it was a post at Tales from the Reading Room  that lead my to Me Talk Pretty One Day.  I had seen Dress in Corduroy and Denim in bookstores when it came out, but somehow the cover lead me to think it was a different sort of book from what it was and definitely not my kind of book and I stayed away.

Now that I’ve found his writing, I can’t go back.  I’ve dropped every other reading material I had started or was considering starting – though I must admit it wasn’t that hard to put down The Corrections –  and I’m scouring book shops in town to find whatever they have because I’ve been trying to support the little guy, but I might need to resort to Amazon to feed this new habit of mine.