Category Archives: literature
Some of the dearest memories, I have from school, are the shelves of books that lined the wall of the classroom under the windows. There were collections of biographies and a large collection of the Classics. You know the ones… Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth…the list could go on! Now days the typical classroom does not have this large reading treasure trove instead they have Diary of a Wimpy Kid and every book written about a mouse and his motorcycle. What About the Classics?
This has been a burning question recently. My youngest continues to ask me if I have read certain books. I love to read and he knows this…but the titles are books that have been written in the past 10-12 years and well…I don’t read baby books! I have tried to explain to him the fact that these books were not written when I was little. When I was his age I was reading The Classics! I start telling him about the wonderful and exciting adventures I had while reading them and the dreams that came from these great books. I told him…Journey to the Center of the Earth is one of my favorites and the dreams I had…”Oh, I saw that movie! You got to watch DVDs in school?”.
After he got over the shock that we did not have DVDs when I was in school I told him these books were written before there was television. Then he tore into a discussion about no television.
My question is: If these children are not encouraged to read these great masterpieces then how will they find their adventurous spirit? How will they find the passion to question the extraordinary and use their imaginations? What About the Classics?
The relationships formed and alliances made between characters as they were forced to make life and death decisions gave us hope. Hope that if they could find a way in a tough situation we could find a way. The times I escaped to Oz with all it colorful creatures and fantastic scenery…the unique plant life in the middle Earth that stood high above the characters…wonderful memories that filled my childhood.
How big can your imagination grow in a book with 50 pages…where the only dilemma is limited to one day at school! Our children have lost the desire to explore and fight giant octopi or build a raft and sail the Mississippi, or find the buried treasure while fighting pirates? Do they realize the joys they have missed not learning to fly with Peter Pan?
Before I could read these fantastic works of art my mother introduced a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson to me when I had the chicken pox. It was called “The Land of Counterpane“
When I was sick and lay a-bed
I had two pillows at my head
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.
And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;
And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.
I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of Counterpane.
What child could not dream with a poem like this as a foundation. I read it to my older boys and the battles the army men would have with the Teenage Mutant Turtles was truly Epic! The reading assignments given to our children today are not using these treasures. Very few of the assignments call for biographical reading. How do we learn about the great men and women who shaped our world? There is no way to understand where we came from if they don’t read about these great people and their lives.
I will just keep trying to introduce my youngest to this world from home…I can’t wait for him to have an adventure while reading one of these Classics!
As for me…I will step off my Soap Box…sip on my coffee and fall back into Victorian England. Time for some Jane Austen! What? Don’t you like to dream? Have a great day…and enjoy that lovely cup of coffee!
by Mark Jarman
After the praying, after the hymn-singing,
After the sermon’s trenchant commentary
On the world’s ills, which make ours secondary,
After the communion, after the hand-wringing,
And after peace descends upon us, bringing
Our eyes up to regard the sanctuary
And how the light swords through it, and how, scary
In their sheer numbers, motes of dust ride, clinging–
There is, as doctors say about some pain,
Discomfort knowing that despite your prayers,
Your listening and rejoicing, your small part
In this communal stab at coming clean,
There is one stubborn remnant of your cares
Intact. There is still murder in your heart
Here we are! Another rain soaked day is just outside my window. There is a thick layer of a ghostly fog floating against the brown grass in my yard. The flag moves gently, in the slight breeze, shaking the tiny rain drops from their resting spot. The cars splash by on their daily course leaving tread marks against the wet asphalt. “Rainy Days are Wonderful Days!”
I am not crazy to feel this way…I am relieved to have this scene in January. It beats the sun shinning brightly and the temperature in the 60-70 range. The rainy, foggy day gives the onlooker the wintry feel and the opportunity to excuse yourself from outside activities. I was going to walk the track at the park close by but, I should stay home and catch up on household duties. This is a perfect day to put on my music, of choice, and whisk through the house making the best of what time I have. There are times where a book and a blanket are all I need on days like this. “Not today!” I am sure I will find things to fill my time…the refrigerator needs my attention and the counter-tops could be cleaned and sealed again. The little jobs that always get over looked are the ones I have in mind to complete today. “Rainy Days are Wonderful Days!”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a lovely poem called “The Rainy Day”. He talks of the dreary nature of rainy days and how it tears the soul, draining cheerfulness from the weary heart. He then brings it back, in sermon like tone, and says [“Be still sad heart and cease repining. Behind the clouds is the sun still shinning. Thy fate is the common fate of all. Into each life some rain must fall.”] The sun is still shinning and will shine again soon. Till this happens I will make the best use of what I have. Make it a good day and it will be a good day. Why let the rainy, dreary day drag me down to the depths. I am able to enjoy every day!
“Rainy Days are Wonderful Days!” Enjoy this time of solitude and silence. Make it a special day, not bothered with a hurried and sloppy journey. Take time for self! “I will start with another lovely latte’…after I iron my son’s pants for his job interview.” What? I am a loving and nurturing mom…and he has not figured out how to iron correctly yet! HEHE!
Taken out of context, what does the Bard have to say to us today? I guess this started with the priest’s question on Sunday of “What’s in a name? Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?” If we take Shakespeare out of context at church, where else do we take him out of context?
The other day my chiropractor said to me, “Tell me something brilliant.” Well, who can think of something brilliant at a time like that? So, I responded, “Methought I was enamored of an ass.” He looked at me like I had lost my marbles. So I elaborated, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Shakespeare.” He said, “No one has ever quoted Shakespeare to me before.”
That got me to thinking about not only Shakespeare out of context but also of other literary masters from Toni Morrison to Peanuts. Then today at work, I had to use some horsey quotes for what I was writing, and this one came to me. “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.” Ergo, the first “Out of Context” post.
My question is this: What would you give everything for – vainly hoping it would bring you all of the magic? Would I give it all up for a size six? No, but I probably would have once. Would I give it up to have the big house on the hill? No. Been there, done that. Would I give it up for a man. Little dicey there. But no. I wouldn’t give it all up for a man. I haven’t found my thing yet, but maybe you are on your way to finding yours.
This is my other question: What literary characters gave up everything in hopes of a better life? What historical characters did the same. I’d say Alex from A Clockwork Orange gave it all up to get out of jail. So did the creeper Humbert Humbert in Lolita. Huck gave it up to travel with Jim, but then he didn’t have much to leave either. Jim left everything for a chance at freedom when he lost his family.
The Joads gave it up in The Grapes of Wrath and moved to California only to suffer a worse fate. Or did they give it up? They kept each other. Even Rose of Sharon learned how to give life instead of take in the end. I guess the list could go on and even be better researched (or researched at all for that matter).
I don’t think Shakespeare meant all of this with the evil king’s stab at a valiant ending any more than I believe Lord Farquad loves Fiona, but Shakespeare’s words are enduring and they are often worth thinking about.