Well, I did better than last year, and I think the year before, too, at reviving LJ posting over the summer. Tomorrow morning, shiny new seventh graders arrive (I guess they're slightly less shiny than the incoming sixth graders, but still). I was still fiddling around preparing the blank (but labeled at the bottom so that they'll be legible to me, and divided by class periods) name cards for tomorrow when the principal announced that they were locking the building at 5:15, which means I didn't get my copying done, and will have to go in early, early tomorrow. Like maybe by 6:45 AM. Yikes. Which means leaving no later than 6:15, which means getting out of bed by no later than 5:45, and 5:30 would be better. Thus, I should be in bed now... I got absolutely zero sleep last night, as my brain feverishly reviewed possible strategies and 'community building' ideas. We're supposed to do that for the first week, and preferably the first two weeks. No hard curriculum or content. We'll see.

Home projects proceed apace (which means slowly). I have scanned almost 200 old family photos (with something like 1,000 or more left). I have not re-cluttered after de-cluttering. I bought Devlin a cat bed (which I was not entirely sure she would tolerate) and she loves it madly and sleeps in it every night, almost spilling out of it.


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Devlin has loved me being at home, and it is sad to no longer get to be exquisitely lazy with her. On a weekday, at any rate.
It is almost 10:30, and I am not ready to go to bed and concede that my weekend is over. I also haven't eaten dinner, and that is stupid for numerous reasons, actual physical hunger being one of them. (In a follow up to my last entry more than a month ago... I have been able, so far, to continue doing pretty well in tracking and being regular with diabetes stuff, despite school starting. I am especially doing well in eating well at school, and drinking tea there, and not wasting money and pancreatic health on the fast food franchises that infest all school neighborhoods in the US... I have a microwave, a plug in kettle, and a small fridge in my classroom, but until this year, I had not made the best, most consistent use of those things. I am also hella grateful for cheap frozen meals from Trader Joe's, and fruit, and cut up veggies from ditto...).

Anyway... as far as the title of this post... yeah, Sunday Night Blues, amplified by two things -- first, our union's tactics in contract negotiations with the district, see how they suck. The president has pretty much hinted (and it was no surprise given this union local's generally supine approach to the district, with whom they USED to be cozy as hell) that if we do go to impasse and then arbitration and then vote for a strike, it will be long and depressing because the district is headed by Scott Walker wannabes aiming to gut any union, and we'll lose. Great! So the only tactic the union leadership is pushing is a) electoral, as far as getting two new members of the local school board elected who might vote against the superintendent, and b) work to rule until that school board election, although not every site is participating. My middle school site is THE VANGUARD, ahead of any other school including the two high schools. Crazy.

So here's the deal. [This is mostly excerpted from a chat with a friend, to whom I was explaining what is going on]

Labor situation: our union, the [redacted] Education Association (so, NEA rather than AFT) has been in negotiations for the past eight or nine months, and we've been without a contract that long. The district is playing Scott Walker hard ball and has utter contempt for us. They offered a 1% raise while districts surrounding us were offering 8% or more. They've inched up to 2.5% or something derisory like that. They have tons of new money that is neither restricted nor one-time only income, but they refuse to spend it on either salaries or smaller class sizes in the lower grades, which was supposedly a California priority.

In reaction, we're "working to rule" at least at my site (I am very curious about at least one of the other middle schools, because they were supposed to vote on this last week) until mid-November, after the (stupid) school board elections. I don't think much of this electoral tactic — why the two board members supported by the union would make THAT much difference, and also, why they would necessarily get elected, despite a big push and precinct walking by the union. This is a pretty conservative community, small, mostly stable working class and lower middle class, with a lot of Christians and a lot of Mormons.

Working to rule means we can only do what is literally in our (expired) contract: we can't work early or late (which ALL of us do); we can't have our rooms open and supervise children during the morning break or over our lunch period (which sucks because I have a group of kids who like to eat there and who are hella nice, from last year and this year); strictly observed, we shouldn't even grade at home or send email to parents or students answering their email at home. I am very nervous about not grading, though generally I am hella up to date on that. Right now I have two weeks' worth of Reading Logs for my three English/Language Arts classes, and one article with "talking to the text" all over it to comment on in depth for those three classes, and one Review & Assess on a short story by Gary Soto, and coming tomorrow, one character trait/character/supporting quote assignment on the same story. The Social Studies grading mostly happens in class, so there's that, at least. There are two more weeks in the first quarter, and we've been told to do our "best guess estimation" on grades.

My friend asked how anyone could "catch me" grading at home, or sending emails at home. I told him that they (the union) cannot. But it undercuts solidarity with my fellow teachers if I grade and post grades for parents to see on Schoolloop when other teachers are not doing it; it divides us. I may decide to grade at home, but not post the grades publically, that is, update Schoolloop (the online grading/email program we use to communicate with students and parents). Literally, grading and planning and emailing students and parents is all unpaid overtime that teachers do at home and after school and before school ALL THE TIME.

But it sucks. It's painful, and it makes my job harder while I'm on the clock.

Here, have a couple of pretty pictures that show how my classroom has progressed since the first bare day.

Bookshelves with classroom library near front door

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New bookshelf for my own teacher stuff, and more posters/decor

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Past extra credit projects from first quarter's Medieval Europe unit

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I can't believe I didn't write anything this summer. It's been kind of... well, at Thursday's bullshit welcome-back-to-forced-blah-blah meeting we had to have "Circle Time", where our entire school site staff sat in a big circle outside in the glaring sun, and used 'speaking objects' to take turns sharing. Our first sharing question was to describe our summer in seven words or less. I said "Family and personal health and Lake Geneva". And that was my summer, folks. That and being enraged about Gaza and Ferguson.

I started the summer with a wretched cold that was almost Whooping Cough... it lasted for weeks and weeks, and involved extreme exhaustion. Also in terms of personal health, I spent the summer trying to deal better with my diabetes. Recording and tracking blood sugar levels, checking off pills and insulin daily, tracking (observing, more, not prescribing or critiquing) meals. It's been very good to do that, and I hope to fuck I can continue now that school is starting.

On the family health front, that really means my mother, who in addition to her COPD, is also dealing with what my sister and I have just learned to describe as Mild Cognitive Impairment, aka dementia-in-waiting. There have been signs and portents for a few years, but incidences have been increasing and finally even my denial (second only to my mother's superior powers in that area) was fractured. One example: we were getting some gas and she offered to pump it, which was nice, but once she finally figured out how to put my card in to pay for it (which failed multiple times) she tried to gas the pump rather than my car, and asked in confusion where she was supposed to put the nozzle. Pretty terrifying.

Thing is, her confusion and her issues with memory are so greatly affected by emotion and depression that it's a little hard to tell what is baseline. When she is upset and dealing with negative emotions, she is much more likely to become confused. And that gas pump episode was after a hell of a week at the beginning of the summer when I'd taken her to three doctors' appointments or tests, and then she'd had a spell of dizziness and falling that took her to the ER -- due, it turned out, to drug interactions. She hadn't told her doctor out here about one drug her doctor in Chicago had her on, and the combination of two of her pills dropped her blood pressure down to extremely dangerous levels. When she started falling and we rushed her to the ER, however, we didn't know that, and her doctor used the very scary word 'stroke'.

So. We're working on getting her to live out here in Oakland full time, and it seems like we've finally mostly won that argument, though she is not yet selling her co-op in Chicago. She has agreed in principle, though. ANYWAY, my main point is that this summer has pretty much been about dealing with all of these things. Even going to Lake Geneva for two weeks was mostly about dealing with stuff for my mom; we went together, and both stayed with my dad and stepmother. Thank fuck that they and my mom are family and friends. I can't imagine estrangement there; what a nightmare that would be. She's doing okay right now, though emotionally fragile with the recognition of this MCI stuff. My sister motivated her signing a contract with a geriatric management company out here that has assistants who do daily home visits and check her pills and get her engaged in the day, which prevents my mom from slipping into sleeping for vast portions of the day due to her chronic depression. This is a good thing, though damn, it costs up the ass.

Otherwise, I feel like I mostly used the summer to do expensive personal chores I couldn't get to during the school year, like a brake job and mundane household purchases (new desk top, new mattress topper, sheets, new external hard drive, etc.) And now it's over. I don't know. My classroom is ready (a giant thank you to my younger niece R., for helping me yesterday, photos below). I am not really thinking about teaching yet, although it starts Monday. But it's a minimum day, whatever. I'll practice their names and seating charts, even though my rosters will probably change in a week or two.

A serene empty classroom:

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My niece R-the-younger:

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maeve66: (fairylights dhamaka)
And things are calm, and kids are in a good mood, despite the fact that I am three class parties down, and three class parties to go. The cleaning-as-we-go thing is working well so far, hallefuckinglujah.

My tree is decorated! It is a giant explosion of Xmas lights -- two big bulb LED strings, and one small LED string. No blinking; I hate that. It's very, very pretty. I will add a photo to this post when I get home, which will be hella, hella, hella early.

There are cut out snowflakes on my classroom windows... yeah, I know I frequently sound like an elementary school teacher.

It's my prep period right now, on our short day. In the classes, all I am having to do is be vigilant that the songs I am allowing them to play on my sound system are clean, and grade their History group projects, a West African Trading Empire board game. Some very, very good ones -- best I've seen in doing this three times -- and some adequate ones -- and some crap, man-you-didn't-exactly-work-hard-on-this-did-you ones. There are three more half-hour classes/parties, and then teachers, too, can leave early, hurrah! We don't have to stay until 3:15, because these are hours we worked at an earlier evening... Report Card Night, most likely.
maeve66: (some books)
What an odd subject. I wish I knew where they got these. The repetitions convince me that it is not just farming, say, google searches.

My answer? Usually my answer was "At the last possible moment". Yeah, I'm late on this. I am still in recovery mode, bleah. Though at least my fever and most of my body/joint aches are gone. That was BRUTAL. I mean, not a patch on 2009's H1N1, but then, little could approach that. This was brief but brutal.
maeve66: (Hiroshige lady)
That was the randomly generated topic (well, it was the topic after ten non-starters, many of them repeated non-starters).

I love to draw. I love to build drawing into my classes, which is one aspect of teaching middle school versus high school that is a plus. Maybe I could work drawing into high school history classes. But probably not as often. Anyway. The Middle Ages in Europe is fun to teach, and right now students are working on skits to dramatize different aspects of lives in late medieval towns (guilds, merchants, home life, medicine, crime and punishment, and leisure activities), which will be interesting to see. But the mini-project right before this was having them create illuminated manuscripts. I bought parchment (-like) paper and copied an outline onto it for their final drafts, and I got some nice ones. I decided they had to write their letters in 1175, and had to pretend to be either Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine or someone related to her (first husband Louis VII of France, daughters Marie and Alix, both already married by then to, respectively, the Comte de Champagne, and the Comte de Blois; second husband Henry II, who had imprisoned her in 1173 for conspiring with her sons to rebel against him; any of her seven living children with Henry II, Young Henry, Young Eleanor, Geoffrey, Richard, Matilda, Joan, or John, or Henry II's illegitimate half-sister, Marie of France, who was at that point the Abbess of St. Edwards Abbey in Shaftesbury, and the author of some of the earliest romantic poetry. They had to pick one person to be and one person to write to -- oh, I added, for the boys who desperately wanted to be knights, Sir William Marshall, who was Eleanor of Aquitaine's Marshal and Household Knight-at-Arms. I gave them a handout with some basic information about these people, and their ages on one side, and a model letter on the other side. At home, I made my own, and here is my two page illuminated manuscript letter.*

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And here is the second page. Kids only had to do a one page letter, and most of them wrote approximately three times as big as me, and with wide lines. They are not accustomed to writing long letters, at all.

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*full disclosure; I read E. L. Konigsberg's A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver when I was ten or eleven, and its impact has never faded. The Alison Weir factual biography of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine did not teach me much more than that YAF historical novel.
maeve66: (Bernadette)
Drinks to get you started in the morning
Religions ranked by age
Chord progression
Knights of the Round Table
Ways to spend Sunday afternoon
Faked happiness
Studying abroad


1. Tea
2. Ummmm... of the major ones... Shintoism? Then Hinduism... Judaism... Christianity... Buddhism... Islam, Sikhism... that's my guess. Dunno when Jainism comes in. And I refuse to list Mormonism.
3. no clue at all
4. I should totally teach the Medieval period by teaching Arthurian legend. But we don't, and kids barely know any of them. Sir Lancelot, Sir Galahad, Sir Gawain, Sir Percival, Sir Kay, Sir Gareth, Sir Gaheris, Sir Agravaine, Sir Bors, Sir Tristan, Sir Lamorak, and Sir Bedivere. Yeah, I looked about the last half of this lot up.
5. On a good Sunday afternoon, cooking, reading, playing a computer game, reading and relaxing. On a bad Sunday afternoon, stressed and blue about the inexorable approach of the work week.
6. Ugh
7. The time of my life -- hella fun. I didn't do much actual studying in England, though. I never went to a single lecture. I attended my Modern European Mind (i.e. Feuerbach and Hegel and Marx and Engels and Luxemburg) tutorials and my French classes and some of the linguistics tutorials. But I never turned a single piece of work in -- essays, mostly. I felt relatively ill-educated compared to the undergrad Brits I knew, which was galling. And I was much more busy with leftist hyper activism and my first major adult relationship to care about classes at all. Only link to this icon: I did get to hear Bernadette speak that year, in Brighton.
maeve66: (Eleanor Marx)
History. That was easy.

I like reading, and I like writing. Nay, I love reading, and I love writing. And I can even be interested in grammar's peculiarities. But I do not at all enjoy trying to cozen adolescents into liking reading and writing, or even just learning to read and write better.

History can be fun. Teaching history can involve art projects (so can English, just not as often), can involve little-known weird and gross facts, is colorful and at the same time organized and slightly regimented. It's true that students are very dubious about WHY they should learn history... but then, they're almost equally dubious about why they should read or write.

Also, a student asked me what I was going to be for Halloween this year. I don't know. Maybe Eleanor of Aquitaine? That seems to be the theme right now.
maeve66: (Daoism)
Those were two topics that came up on the random topic generator, one after the other. Both education topics, which is fitting enough because I am finding it very, very hard to focus on lesson planning, this evening. Bah.

Cheating on tests... bugs me. I mean, I feel like it's one of those things that hurts the perpetrator, but that the perpetrator doesn't care that he or she has not actually learned those things, or else he or she would not cheat in the first place. If he or she doesn't CARE about learning, how can someone else possibly "make" them care? This expresses a good portion of my ambivalence about teaching. I can try to make a subject interesting, I can try to make learning an often enjoyable process, I myself enjoy some of what I teach (see next subject, or perhaps it should be tomorrow's topic?)... but if a kid is determined not to learn, for whatever reason*, how can I force him or her? I wonder if there are experiments out there about removing grades as an issue, and of course standardized tests, and seeing how students reacted to learning for learning's sake?

*reasons which obviously can include the fact that somehow, for some set of reasons, learning skills in school has ALWAYS been difficult and therefore not enjoyable for some students, and that they associate reading and writing with failure and boredom and lack of enjoyment, as well as shame and associated rejection. How do you get someone to move beyond that experience, especially when their basic skills are so low that getting information from reading is excruciatingly difficult for them. Yes, you can try to use other means for getting information across, and I do, but at the end of the day, there is still going to be necessary reading and writing.

PS, unrelated, I am finally making greater headway through Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna, having reached the Diego Rivera/Frida Kahlo/Leon Trotsky portion of the book. Also, I finished her Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which did bother me -- I skipped all of her husband's pedantic mini-essays and the daughter's self-approving anecdotes -- but I tried to take in some of it without sneering at the freedoms which allowed her to "live off the land" and reduce her carbon footprint, etc. I note she and her husband did fly to Italy during the year, to do some farm tourism.
maeve66: (Hello Mao!)
This time I took the first topic offered. I may have written about this before, but too bad, here I go again.

One of the things that I was most involved with during high school was a student political club that I and a friend whose parents were Communists (like, literally -- one was the nicest Stalinist you could ever hope to meet, who had fled with his family from Poland just ahead of the Nazis, and then gone back as an anti-Nazi spy just post-war, as a nineteen year old or something crazy like that; the other, D's mother, was an Italian Eurocommunist with strong opinions and amazing cooking skills). D. and I argued all the time about how hard left our little club was going to be -- he wanted us to have a study group and read Michael Parenti's Democracy for the Few, while I wanted us to create speakers' platforms for people in the Sanctuary movement from El Salvador, and attend nuclear freeze AND Central American solidarity demonstrations. I won, basically, in the first round, and then our adult club sponsors won, on the surface at least, in the second round. They forced us to change our club name from the "Evanston Progressive Students Committee" (which I stole from the student activists at Northwestern University, where I frequently meeting-hopped on weekday evenings) to "Students for International Understanding" -- the first public event of which was an international potluck. Oh, god, I was furious.

Nevertheless, we kept struggling for autonomy and radical actions. We would paint banners and go on demonstrations in solidarity with the guerillas in El Salvador and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua one weekend, and then -- here comes the origami -- fold a thousand paper cranes and have tables to ask that student volunteers fold another thousand paper cranes, and then stuff them in cardboard boxes and LITERALLY mail them to Leonid Brezhnev, the week after this. Let me check the year, it might have been Andropov. Yeah, I think it was Andropov, unless it was early in the year.

The cranes drove me crazy. I don't think I folded a single one myself. Yes, it was visual and symbolic, but did it educate anyone in anything? No. Plus, I was completely a unilateral disarmament proponent (me and E. P. Thompson and the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) and was disgusted that we sent cranes to Russian leaders, and none to Reagan.

On the other hand, we also had alternative political projects around disarmament, which I thought were better political education of those participating in them as activists. We organized a school campaign to declare Evanston Township High School a Nuclear-Free Zone (yes, totally symbolic; no one was suggesting hosting missiles or even nuclear accelerators at ETHS), and held our referendum on the same day as the campus-wide Student Council election. Hundreds more students voted in our referendum than bothered to vote for Student Council electors, and of those who voted in the referendum, about 83% voted in favor of declaring the school a Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone. Oh, we (and often, mostly me) made the principal angry. Those sorts of things were always why I got called to the principal's office. So fucking stupid.

The upshot of this campaign was, however, indicative. All the young liberal students in the club were so proud of our efforts, and so certain that this democratic endeavor would prevail, and I pretty much knew it wouldn't. They called a School Board Meeting -- on the same night as my Medieval Banquet, so I was dressed in a Medieval costume I'd made myself, and had to duck out of one of the songs the Madrigal choir was performing, to go to the meeting, held in Beardsley N-112, the Study Hall room. Several other SIU members were there, and at least three of us spoke before the School Board, which listened impatiently and then quashed the results of the referendum, saying students had no authority to declare any school status. I was not in the least surprised, but for the other students (apart from D., also a red diaper baby) it was a shock and a disillusionment. I felt slightly guilty because I had seen this sort of disillusionment produced intentionally by some left groups, as a way to radicalize activists' consciousness. But I didn't do it on purpose -- we did everything right, everything possible to create democratic change, and the institution could not permit democracy. Still, much more educational than the origami cranes.
Still Mrs. Weingartner, but in fifth grade I almost better remember the one teacher I left Sarah Weingartner's class for, who taught Science, Mrs. Kantnor. Irene Kantnor. I loved her. She was old too, whiter gray hair, also styled very short, and wiry. Her science class was mostly biology, and I was fascinated. What I remember best was that we dissected live eggs from an incubator, one a week, to see fetal chicken development. I can barely believe we did that then. I can't imagine schools allowing it now. But in 1975, I thought it was incredibly cool, and felt like a real scientist, as well as a real artist, drawing the now aborted fledglings in their fetal development, from tiny bodies that seemed mostly eyes, head and backbone, to things that were recognizably featherless chicks. At the end, there were still a dozen or so chicks that were allowed to hatch, which was cool too.

What else do I remember? There was a field trip to see The Wiz, and that was very cool. The school finally insisted often enough to my mother that I needed an optometrist appointment that I got one, after spending a year walking up to the chalkboard to within an inch or two to write down math problems. So I got glasses, at last, and was amazed to find that trees' leaves were DISTINCT, not a massy blur of green.

By fifth grade we had graded readers, with comprehension questions (ah, the famous comprehension questions), and I worked my way through the 5th grade one in a few weeks. And then the sixth grade one. And then the seventh grade one, and the eighth grade one, and BIZARRELY (it was bizarre that these even existed; why would there be high school level GRADED READERS? Shouldn't high schoolers have been reading novels? Maybe these were for the remedial high school classes? Maybe they just existed somewhere in some District 65/202 warehouse, and were fetched out for me...) the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade ones. I have no memory of actually reading a single thing in any of these books. Just completing the workbooks that went with them. I'd be fired if that's how I taught a class. Here, have a book and a workbook. Come back when you're done. I guess it gave the teacher time to teach other kids or something.
Aarghh. I don't know. I had Mrs. Weingartner, for both fourth and fifth grade, and I get a little confused as to what happened which year.

I remember that she was strict and seemed ancient, and had a tiny little knot of iron grey hair in a round ball at the top of her head the first year, and then got a really short hair cut, still iron grey, the second year. I think. She was very sallow, and wrinkled. The general consensus was that she looked like a witch, and one of those years, I caved to peer pressure and drew a picture of her, colored green getting married as a witch, god knows why. She smoked like a fiend, and drank diet Tabs (I guess that's all there was, Tab WAS diet) all day long. I am not joking, she smoked in the classroom as far as I remember, and would send students to the Teachers' Lounge to buy her her Tabs. I WANT to say that she sent a student to buy her a pack of smokes, but that is probably apocryphal.

I remember they taught us Right from Left that year, and that's when I realized I really cannot tell my right from left. I have a 50% chance of getting it right, and I always failed (so, less than fifty percent when under pressure) when called on to identify the little plastic figurines that were strategically placed around the classroom.

I also remember hating double digit multiplication and long division, and being recommended to take summer school because I'd done so poorly at it. Which is weird, because in fifth grade they accelerated me to "Project SEED" which was baby algebra, where you did exponents but did not use exponent notation -- instead, you used a capital E between two numbers so that "3 E 4" meant three to the fourth power, or 81. (I hope that is 3 to the fourth power, 3 x 3 x 3 x 3) ANYWAY, I recall that during fourth grade one day I tried to imagine what COLLEGE MATH could possibly be like, and I thought it would be long division only with ridiculously long numbers as both the divisor and the dividend.

Mrs. Weingartner read to us regularly -- four books she read were Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan (she clearly loved E. B. White, as did I) and Marguerite De Angeli's The Door in the Wall, a story set in the Middle Ages, which I loved, though other kids chafed at it. I could never stand to wait for the next installment, so I would sneak the books out of her desk and read them, with my desk lid propped up. She obviously knew I was doing this, but never busted me. She liked my writing a lot, did Mrs. Weingartner.
maeve66: (AQ bikini 1973)
Okay, I am finally aging out of this photo. But I don't think I have any photos from 3rd grade. Third grade was rough. We'd just moved from Madison to Evanston, and I did not make a smooth transition. My parents sent to me "summer camp", e.g. day camp at a park two blocks away which we called "The Tornado Slide Park" because it had one of those spiral slides. It also had a strange, bare white space with, I think, water nozzles in it at ground level, surrounded by a white painted iron fence, which I guess was for water play, but not swimming? It seems weird, now, in my memory. I hated that day camp, and the kids were mean, and I grew bitter that we'd moved. School was not much of an improvement on the summer. My teacher, Mrs. Rutledge, lived right next door to us, and I didn't much like her. She was Southern. Her son, Jonathan, was four years younger than me and a pain in the ass. She was a single mother, though I don't know if she was divorced or what. The only things I remember from her classroom are a) a reading program called SRA which was all about timed readings and answering content questions, and I enjoyed zooming through it and upping my reading speed and finishing the entire box of small, color-coded readings and questions, and b) I got in a fight with a boy who was later a major gang leader in Evanston, Jerry Wright, aka Peanut Wright, presumably because of his head shape. The fight consisted of him throwing a metal trashcan at me (I have absolutely no recollection of why) and me throwing it back. We were sent to Mr. Cherry, the principal, and we were terrified on our way to the Office, because both of us had heard and believed that Mr. Cherry practiced corporal punishment, with a paddle. We saw no such thing in his office. That's pretty much all I remember from third grade.
maeve66: (AQ bikini 1973)
Again, completely random memories. This was my last year at Marquette Elementary School, in Madison, because we moved that next summer to Evanston, Illinois.

This was the year that I cut the corner off of the American flag in an act protesting the Vietnam War (how it did that, I do not know... it may also have been a protest against the Pledge of Allegiance... GOD, I hate having to hear that every morning).

I remember really, really liking my teacher, whose first name was Rose. I think her last name was Germanish? Now I can't remember. Schneidman? Something like that. I used to remember. She was the first youngish teacher I'd had, and I didn't have another youngish teacher until seventh grade and Ms. Noznick, with whom I fought a great deal, but to whom I was extremely memorable.

Literally the only other thing I remember from that year of school was that in one Science unit, we took apart and then rebuilt little devices with batteries. That was cool.

Oh, and a new girl came to school, whose family had just moved to the US from Bolivia. I was convinced they were political refugees (and they may have been) but in any case, my enthusiasm for Mercedes led the teacher to make me her mentor/guide, what have you. And we became close friends, often playing together after school. Her older teenage sister, Patricia, was amazing to me because she had a microscope and showed us our hair and blood, and because she was taking French, and told me she would take me to France with her when she went, as an adult. This was actually the first time I encountered the notion of studying French, even before our family vacation three years later to Quebec and St. Pierre.
maeve66: (AQ bikini 1973)
Really, not many at all. I remember my teacher, Mrs. Smith. She was old (ancient in my six to seven year old eyes) with white hair. I remember it being the first time I ever witnessed a human habit I greatly dislike, of belittling your own efforts in order to elicit praise. Ooh, that made me annoyed. I wanted to respond by agreeing with the belittling, because I thought it was so false. And I remember that we were using Reading Circles, where we took turns reading aloud from, literally, the Dick and Jane books. "See Spot run. See Spot run to Dick. Dick has a bike. It is red. See Dick's red bike. See Jane. See Velvet sit. See Velvet sit by Jane." Something like that. It was driving me batshit, because I learned to read when I was three. So Mrs. Smith sent me down the hall to one of the second grade classrooms and I worked on phonetics there, which were still easy and pointless.
I think my favorite grade was 12th, Senior Year. It was either 8th grade, Junior Year, or Senior Year. So I'll go with Senior Year this time, though I could make an argument for any of those three years.

In my last year of high school, I took four AP classes -- English, European History, French, and Biology. I'd taken US History AP the year before. Those classes were wonderful; they really pushed me and I liked being pushed. I have to admit it was also good having kids who were also really into learning in the classes, though since Evanston Township High School was definitely tracked, I'd had that in most of my classes. Some of the students were annoying rich kids who looked well down their noses at regular kids. But a lot weren't obnoxious in that way. Suddenly I don't remember whether I was in YAMO Senior Year, or Junior Year... no, it was Senior Year. Junior Year, I was in the chorus in The Mikado, which was great fun.

YAMO was a student written, composed, choreographed, and directed play or series of skits, produced every year by a very talented bunch of drama students. No one really knew what YAMO stood for. Some kids said it originated in the 1950s and was an acronym for "Youth of America Marching Onward". Others argued for something else, but I don't even remember other suggestions. It was just the yearly Senior Show. My Senior Year happened to be the ... now I am not sure.. the centenary of the high school? Some of the building was from the 1920s, though, so maybe it was just the 60th anniversary of the high school's central core building. John Cusack and Steve Pink and Leelai Demos and Scott Markus, I think -- anyway a crew of John Cusack and his friends conceived of the general outline and wrote it, composed the music, choreographed the dances, and directed it. It began with a steal from 2001, A Space Odyssey, with a monolith inscribed ETHS rising from the stage floor, and the chorus, as cavemen, cowering before it. That's what I remember the most. That, and being overexcited during one rehearsal such that Cusack came over and patted my head, telling me to shut up or pipe down, or something.

Senior Year -- this part is not so great -- was also when I got first bronchitis, then what the doctors called pleurisy (which when I read about it seemed like something left over from the 19th century, and I felt lucky not to have "consumption", e.g. tuberculosis), cracked a rib coughing, and then got viral pneumonia to top it all off. Altogether I was out of school for about three months of my Senior Year, and no one thought I'd be able to make up the work and graduate, or pass my AP tests. I had to take gym three times a day -- at 6 AM, then during the school day at my regular period, and then again after school at 3:30 -- but I fucking made it through, and got 5s on all four AP tests.

The "progressive" political club I'd founded my Sophomore Year was still going strong, and we had plenty of good actions and went to many demonstrations.

I enjoyed the friends I was hanging out with a lot, much parental liquor was consumed (at one friend's house, often repaired to because her parents were gone a lot of the time, we had seemingly inexhaustible supplies of a) vodka (which I now loathe), b) frozen orange juice, and c) velveeta cheese and wonder bread, which became grilled cheese sandwiches... her house was also decorated primarily in orange, from the shag carpeting to the ceramic lamps, to the modernistish murky oil paintings in gilded frames), some weed was smoked, though I was never very good at that, and enjoyable debates and arguments were had.

And then, at the end of the year, I was selected with a few other kids from my French AP class, as I had been selected each year, to take the Alliance Française Concours National de Français. Each year previously I'd done well, and the prize was a French dictionary, or a copy of a French novel. I thought it was the same this year, but no. For Seniors, the prize was an all-expenses paid scholarship to Paris to study at the Alliance Française on Boulevard Raspail. I did not know that, but I was informed, on my birthday, that I had won, from my school. Two girls from New Trier were the other winners. We had to pass an interview, at which I remember raving about how much I loved Voltaire, which I did. And then the current scions of the McCormack family gave me round trip air tickets to Paris, prepaid hostel lodgings on the Ile St. Louis at the Foyer la Vigie, run by severe nuns, and $1,000 spending money. Holy shit. I had never even been on a plane. The whole thing was insane, and wonderful.
maeve66: (me in sixth grade)
Strong memories are interesting. Since I like to write, I have written about a lot of strong memories, whether in high school or college or as an adult, in journals or in blogging. I am going to try to think of something I haven't written about before.

I remember the librarian at my elementary school quite well. Her name was Sherry Gold -- Ms. Gold, obviously, to my eight-year-old self. She was tall (or seemed tall to a eight year old) and thin and had bright red hair. I loved the school library, of course -- my mother was a librarian, I had always seen public libraries, whether in Madison or Evanston, as rich palaces of pleasure and comfort and enjoyment... back in the days before more than three TV stations or any other source of shows and movies (other than a movie theater: no video, no DVD, no computer) public libraries sometimes showed films, say on a weekend, or over a school holiday. In Madison, I remember watching avant garde children's movies about shapes and colors with just music, and also an animation of Ezra Keats' classic "The Snowy Day". In Evanston, I remember going to see the 1930s version of "The Secret Garden". These were rare treats, because otherwise you had to spend money at a theater if you could even get your parents' permission, or else watch the reliable three movies that came on regularly once each year: The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, and Lilies of the Field. Were there others that were practically seasonal, like those? I'm not talking about Late Night Movies, but annually shown, and shared, movies.

ANYWAY, my point is that I was predisposed to love libraries and librarians. And the Central School library was great: colorful wall-to-wall carpeting, bean bags to sit on, lots and lots of books, bright windows, plants. The room was a regular classroom size, but it seemed huge.

Ms. Gold enjoyed my avid love of reading, but I also frustrated her, because at age eight, I was kind of stubbornly clinging to (good) picture books. For some reason I was avoiding longer chapter books. This was two years before I went to Prince Edward Island, with my family on vacation, and was given a copy of Anne of Green Gables, and before my uncle gave me a box set of paperback Sherlock Holmes books -- the complete stories, and also Roots, which is something like 800 pages long, and which clearly began my long love affair with huge, giant blockbuster novels-that-can-become-TV-serials. In third grade, I was stubborn. I would read books if they had short pieces in them, like the various colors Andrew Lang fairy tale books, or other collections of folktales and fairy tales from different cultures around the world. But at school, I would read picture books. And as I say, Ms. Gold was frustrated by my avoidance. She finally recommended a Young Adult fiction book to me and INSISTED that I check it out and read it. The funny thing is, I hated that book. I remember it quite well. It was The Court of the Stone Children, about two statues who occasionally came alive, or ghosts in a museum or something, but all the characters in it were depressed and kind of archaic. My clear thought, as I remember it, was "This is too old for me. This is for some teenagers. Who like depressing stuff." But despite the fact that I very much disliked that book, it somehow broke the logjam, and I began immediately to voraciously read longer books, sometimes indiscriminately adult-audience books, anything in my parents' book shelves, and ALMOST every Young Adult Fiction novel on the school library's shelves. One of the books that was an early favorite -- I might have gotten it from Scholastic, because I know I owned the paperback -- had a plot similarity to the Eleanor Cameron Court of the Stone Children. It was called Stoneflight by Georgess McHargue. Man, I miss that book. A girl with a problematic family (parents bickering? maybe?) who lives in an old apartment building in NYC and takes refuge on the roof, where there are stone carvings on the edge -- some gargoyles maybe, and definitely one griffin. And one night the griffin comes to life, and she flies on him over the city to a meeting of other statues-come-to-life, in Central Park. It's a great exploration of alienation (she wants to be an artist, too, I think, and sketches a lot, which I identified with) and sort of complicated magic. Everything is not neat and easy and the plot is not predictable (unlike, for instance, the Rick Riordan and for that matter the J. K. Rowling oeuvres). There was emotional weight to that book. Another reason I wish I could buy it used and instantly transform it into an ebook, sigh.

That's my memory. The transition from lingering in books for kids to reading more complicated works.
maeve66: (some books)
Bah, I didn't manage yesterday. So I'll do two today. I keep promising 200 words only, and failing to keep that promise.

I'm done with historical YA fiction, I think. But now I think I need to look back at the earliest parts of this, well, series, I guess, to see which favored authors I covered and which I didn't. I haven't been doing them in order, exactly, and the original list itself (which has been augmented while I've been writing these, as names occurred to me) was pretty random.

Sydney Taylor

J. D. Fitzgerald

Ruth Sawyer


This is a group that is... sort of related to historical fiction and sort of related to 19th c. classics -- essentially because these authors wrote pretty much about the times they themselves lived through, which are now very clearly 'history'. I think all of them were children in the 1880s or 1890s... well, Taylor might be later. She may have written in the early fifties. But it was also about her own childhood in the 'teens. I'll do her first.

Sydney Taylor wrote a series of books -- the All of a Kind Family books -- telling stories about her own family growing up -- Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, in the 1910s. I loved these books, growing up. The family is a stair-step family of girls, until the final child, the long-awaited son, is born. There is Ella, the oldest, then Henny (Henrietta), the tomboy with the incongruous blond curls, then Sarah, the bookworm, and finally Charlotte and Gertie. Their father is a rag and bottle and trash collector -- basically a recycler. The stories are full of details of Jewish home life in the first generation after immigration: Sabbath on Friday night, gefilte fish made from fresh carp kept in the bathtub until just before it's made, Passover Seders and Sukkoths, Yom Kippur and Charlie, the baby's boy's bris.

There are also the kinds of details that make an era come alive: New York's subway, pickle barrels and cracker barrels where you get a scoop for a penny. Penny candy. Public libraries and their importance to children. Settlement Houses. Pinafores and organdy dresses. When Henny 'borrows' Ella's only fancy white dress to wear to a party, and it gets stained, the mother at the party saves the day by dyeing the dress with tea. When the mother wants to encourage the girls to do their chores well, she hides buttons -- and once in a while an actual penny, which was almost untold wealth, to them -- in the weird, out of the way places they might forget to dust. I loved it all. I grew up in a town that had a healthy Jewish population, and these books made me feel less ignorant. Maybe even slightly envious and impressed and interested. I bet my niece will love them. I think I have them, or most of them, in paperback... I have to find out, when -- this week -- I sort out my classroom library for getting rid of. Or for transporting the books I don't want to own personally to school. One of those two options. Only the ones I am most passionate about are going to remain in my closets, that's all I can say. And the Taylor books would definitely fit.

The next author, J. D. Fitzgerald writes so engagingly and in such a believable kid's voice that it is somehow hard to believe that he is describing his own (suitably exaggerated and embellished) childhood, with his conniving older brother Tom D. Fitzgerald, known as The Great Brain, because he is so good at scheming and moneymaking and, basically, swindling other children and sometimes even adults. His series is set in Utah in the 1890s, possibly just as it is shifting from territory to state, but while some remnants of Old West still remain. A major theme in the book (aside from all of Tom's shenanigans) is the tension and balance of social power between the majority Mormons and the very small minority of 'Gentiles', meaning non LDS Christians, I guess. Adenville, Utah is a small town, and the Fitzgerald boys (there's also a sort of boring older brother named Sweyn) live with their parents -- their father, who is the editor of the town newspaper, and their mother, a housewife, and 'Aunt Bertha', an unrelated spinster who lives with them -- as the only Catholics in the town. Tom is incredibly intelligent and sly and sneaky and charismatic and arrogant. And J.D., his little brother, looks up to him and occasionally is incredibly angry with him. The books are fantastic, every one of them, although I will talk about my two favorites. There are eight books in the series, though one was posthumously assembled from notes. Unsurprisingly, it is the weakest.

The Great Brain, More Adventures of the Great Brain, Me and My Little Brain, The Great Brain at the Academy, The Great Brain Reforms, The Great Brain Does it Again, and The Great Brain is Back.

For me, the best two are Me and My Little Brain and the one which follows it, The Great Brain at the Academy. In the first of these, J. D. is the hero, and he is indeed a hero. Also, it introduces an excellent character, the orphaned Frankie Pennyworth, described by J. D. at one point as "Frankenstein Dollarworth" because he is a monster and a dollar's worth of trouble. And the second one is both a boarding school story -- always something I liked as a kid -- and a story of fomenting rebellion against authority, in this case Catholic priests who teach at this Jesuit school. The plotline about Tom smuggling in candy to sell is ... well, great. Like his brain.

Finally, Ruth Sawyer was a children's author who grew up on the East Coast and wrote about New York in the 1890s, and also the coast of Maine, same era. She -- and her fictional protagonist for those two books, Lucinda Wyman -- was from a wealthy New York society family whose fortunes crashed around the Panic of 1893. They retrenched by selling everything in NYC and moving to their summer home in Maine. Lucinda's rebellion against the strictures and confining beliefs about girls, and especially upper class girls is the plot of Roller Skates, in which book the girl's parents go to Italy and leave her boarding with two of her teachers, who do not exercise anything like the traditional control over her. She has roller skates and uses them to roam the entire city, making friends with people she encounters from an Italian barrow boy to a journalist she calls Mr. Nightowl, to a poor violinist and his family in a tenement, to an abused Middle Eastern wife of some rich Bluebeard living in a hotel. There is sadness in the book, but it's also funny and lovely. The sequel, The Year of the Jubilo takes Lucinda and her returned mother and brothers to Maine. She's older and less able to inhabit a half-fantasy world in the second book, but it is still wonderful. Sawyer's Roller Skates won the 1937 Newbery Medal. And -- I love this bit of trivia -- speaking of Maine, her daughter, Peggy, who became a Children's Librarian (makes me think of our wonderful librarian-that-was, at my school, in my district, which has abolished librarians below the high school level... BRILLIANT) married Robert McCloskey of Make Way for Ducklings, One Morning in Maine, and Blueberries for Sal fame. Those are his East Coast books. His Midwestern books (equally wonderful) are Homer Price, Centerburg Tales, and Lentil. God, I love those books. What a great pedigree children of McCloskey's had... I can just see them, total little beatniks in the 1950s.
I say pensive for my mood because I've had a swing from miserably low and wretched (all day yesterday) to relieved and happy, except that it's always hard to recover from wrong ill-news.

That is, yesterday, a teacher came to my room and told me that he'd seen in the paper that one of my students, from my first year of teaching -- a student I remembered well, saw several times over the past five years, and had just had (shitty) news about, a month earlier (that he was in jail) -- had been shot and killed on Wednesday. And I was distraught and unhappy all day, breaking into tears and snatching a kid I really like and care about (who reminds me forcibly of the one the papers reported as dead) out of class to tell him that this was NOT the news I wanted ever to hear about HIM and he needed to get straight and stop playing the fool, acting the thug, pretending that "street" cool is worth more than the supportive parents he has and the opportunities they provide him are worth. He said he was "touched" by my concern, that I would lecture him like that, passionately and in language I would not ordinarily utter on school grounds. Yeah, he used the word touched. He can code-switch with ease... that is part of my frustration with him.

This morning, another teacher called me after reading the paper to tell me that the papers had printed a retraction, that the police had misidentified the dead boy not as the 19 year old I'd known, but as a 15 year old student from Fremont High, who'd been acquainted with the young man I'd had as a student. So I don't know if my guy really is still in prison or what. But I prefer that to death, though it's hard and horrible to be relieved when SOMEONE's 15 year old child is dead. This fucking inner city trap is so god damned awful, this society that can casually arrange for kids to die for dumb decisions and a lack of alternatives or the internal, hyper-individualized, and almost always imaginary "internal strength" to reject the easy incline to those dumb decisions. I hate it. I hate a system impelled by profit which closes down all alternate avenues because they cost more money, more tax money, because they require more collective social decisions to value human lives. I hate a system based firmly on infrequently verbalized but always present racism. I hate a system that gleefully dismantles, bit by bit, the possibility of a worthwhile, free, equal public education for all.

Okay. And on top of this, I'm reading Foucault's The History of Sexuality Volume I, for the L+P Theory Roundtable meeting this afternoon.

Foucault. He's the least horrible to read of the French deconstructionists, which isn't saying much, as they're all so terribly horrible. And I think I buy the simply stated heart of his analysis of repression/naming/centralization of talk about sex during the supposed height of Victorian prudery. But there are lots of questions I have, that I will be interested to raise today.

A. can't be there, since he's on the East Coast again. But he gets all exercised about the core of deconstructionism as a denial of a unified and constant "human nature" -- well, wait, the "constant" thing isn't fair. He didn't say that, and as a champion of evolutionary theory, I imagine that he would not think of human nature as fixed and unchanging. But unitary and somewhat biological (genetic) in origin? Yes. I doubt that the discussion will center around that, though. He's sad, because he thinks there will be no measured opposition to deconstructionism at the table, only trendy acceptance. Probably so.

Well. There isn't much more school left this year (probably both in the sense I mean, which is that I have four work days left, most of which time will be devoted to practicing for promotion and the actual promotion, itself... and also in the sense that this school is coming apart at the seams and there doesn't seem to be much left to IT, either, after one more year...).

I hope people are having a good weekend -- it seems sunny and beautiful out here in Oakland.

Salut, maeve66
I was going to write this entry just as an exercise in writing to record more or less random minutia (which, arguably, most of my entries are, in any case) -- no Grand Emotions are gripping my breast, or wherever those Victorian notions are supposed to physically reside.

But I wanted a cup of tea to accompany my written ramblings. So I went into my kitchen, not without fear and trembling. Things have Gotten Out of Hand, in my kitchen, in the past several weeks. A friend told me last night, as we went out to dinner and then somewhat oddly exchanged Tips and Hints on organizing space and cleaning from women's magazines and friends' hard-won domestic wisdom, that "the secret to keeping your kitchen clean, the theory, that is, is that you must never let ANYTHING sully the kitchen sink." He explained that the sink is the metaphorical center of a kitchen, and certainly of its potential for disastrous mess and uncleanliness. So if you always do every individual dish or utensil, much less whole dinners' worth of plates and pans... well, magically, nothing ELSE will accumulate.

I believe this theory with the kind of simple faith that comes with a silver-bullet solution combined with plain common sense. I think I ought to try it. God knows letting dishes pile up in the sink demonstrably has the OPPOSITE effect.

Anyway, I went into my kitchen to make a cup of tea, and then quailed before the towering stacks of vilely filthy dishes and pans and pots and bowls, and OLD cups of tea with, literally, mold growing happily on top of the now rancid dregs of cold liquid. Truly revolting. I don't even know if this is wise, to reveal the phenomenally messy nature of my household, at moments. But I guess I am revealing it. It IS, I hasten to assure you (you, my imagined readers) a temporary phenomenon.

And that's what happened, in fact; the phenomenon of that filth became temporary, because I literally couldn't see how I was going to be able to make any tea without doing all the dishes, gathering up trash and groceries that need to be put away, and rationalizing the mess in there.

So I DO have an emotion flooding me, at the moment. Great relief and pleasure that I finally accomplished that nasty task. I wouldn't claim that my kitchen was CLEAN, mind you, because that would take scrubbing the floor on my hands and knees à la Cinderella, frankly. And that ain't gonna happen. Not right now, anyway.

But I can add it to other incremental accomplishments like digging my way out from under vast piles (the bottom layers of which were literally months old) of laundry; cleaning out my hall closet so it can actually be used for storage AND be walked into. Slowly, slowly I am taming this apartment again.

Strangely (or maybe not so strangely) I am better at living in order and calm cleanness when I share space with someone else; I guess as long as that person, too, is someone who prefers order and neatness. Probably if I lived with a slob, I would descend to that easily reached level.

But when I live alone (which I do), it is harder to motivate to do my own social reproduction of my own labor power. It's harder to take the time to do laundry, to clean, to straighten, to do dishes, and especially, to COOK. I infinitely prefer to cook for other people. Cooking for one is ungodly boring.

Oy. Enough of cleaning.

What else is going on, these days? There are now fifteen working days left of the school year. This thought gives me much pleasure. Whatever happens next year, at least it will be NEXT YEAR. A new year always has the potential to be a better year, in teaching. Even in a district as absolutely fucked up as Oakland. I will continue my efforts to get a job somewhere besides Lowell (which will likely be closing, in any case, within a few years -- unless, after two more years, or one more year, it begins to transform into a small high school, one of many options loosed on us unaware by the state administrator, aka, All Forward to the Grand Gentrification of West Oakland, Randolph Ward. The perfect unison of a capitalist restructuring of property in West Oakland (One BART Stop Away from San Francisco's Financial District!!) and the capitalist restructuring (er, elimination) of public education via the "No Child Left Untested" Act; I mean, No Child Left Behind Act.

This is the time of year that teachers wax sentimental, realizing that some of the kids who drove them MOST nuts are the ones they'll miss terribly next year. Especially eighth grade teachers, like me. Every day seems both a little easier -- kids are happier and even though they're a bit hyper with approaching freedom, they're also somewhat calmer since it's finally almost HERE, their cherished summer -- and a little frenetic, as we try to finish up last projects and cram some final pieces of information in their curious heads. I found myself giving a mini lecture on the Cold War and nuclear weapons today, for instance, because none of them knew anything, anything, anything about it.

It's funny. I often find myself sounding like a Stalinist of the first water when I tell kids about the Soviet Union; I'm bending the stick so far in the other direction from what I remember hearing, growing up in the final paroxysms of the Cold War. And they've never HEARD of any social system that doesn't revolve around capital and property and profit. I can't bear to give a nuanced, even-handed treatment of it, at least in the thumbnail that is almost always all I have time for. So I describe the Soviet Union as being against inequality between rich and poor; as having no unemployment; health care for all; housing for all; no homeless, no starving people; support for people fighting against others taking their countries away or trying to control them and rob them (though that would more properly be Cuba than the USSR, after the 30s, anyway)... etc. I allude to the lack of democracy and multiple possibilities of political (or religious) vision only briefly.

I have one student who is very political (though he's never really told me that until recently; but he's clearly taken in the fact that I am... I sometimes wonder how they figure that out: I'm not USUALLY lecturing or teaching about subversion or radical history... I guess I don't hide my anti-war positions, or my positions on gender politics or race, though...) and he was very excited about the discussion of the nuclear arms race and which nation it is that has ever used the atom bomb, and against civilians, at that. But then... then he asked, in the middle of that discussion, whether it was true that the only reason we were at war with Iraq was because of the Jews. Fuck. My face reflected blank astonishment, and then I had just about time before the bell to reject that, but not to explain why that was so utterly wrong an analysis.

Other stuff. The music I am listening to right now is a CD I got at last Friday evening's Freight & Salvage (a coffee house/ folk venue in Berkeley) show, with Mike Seeger (Pete Seeger's stepbrother) and Evo Bluestein. Bluestein plays tons of old timey folk instruments, particularly the autoharp, which I adore. It turned out, in fact, that that was autoharp week at the F&S or something, because Bryan Bowers had played the night before. I wish I'd known; I would have gone to considerable efforts to see Bowers. He's got some amazing songs. One is a lament about a relationship that is ending... it's kind of chauvinist, but the melody is so gorgeous that I forgive it. Another is his chronicle of his own time in prison (for weed possession or dealing or whatever), and it's incredibly poignant.

And still on the culture front... I am rereading Possession by A. S. Byatt. Probably for the sixth or seventh time, if that isn't underestimating. I do reread books I love a lot. I've read everything Byatt has written (something I also do with authors I like), but this is the least challenging in emotional tone; the least negative or bleak. I like everything she does, largely because of her use of language and emotional observations. But this one novel is particularly addictive because of the dual romance in it (her characters are, like good characters, multifaceted enough that you aren't completely sympathetic to them; they have flaws that are believable... these -- Roland and Maud; Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte -- much less so than other of her characters) and also because it's arguably part of a sub-genre of British novels that center around universities; the academic novel or something like that. Other authors include David Lodge, Kingsley Amis, and Evelyn Waugh. I have a weakness for these books either despite or because of their strange class politics. It IS a weakness; I can't stand the authors, most of them. Misogynists all.

One last bit of unrelated flotsom and jetsam (sp?): Friday is my birthday, and I am going to get to dress up and go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. I'm looking forward to it. I think I will also have a brunch-y kind of thing on Sunday with a lot of friends, at my sister's house. This is much more of a fuss than I've made about my birthday for the last several years, really. Probably a large part of that is due to A., who is very good at celebratory rituals and recognition of Occasions.

Bye, y'all

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