Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tom, Tom, You Got It All Wrong

T.S. Eliot can kiss my ass. I know he's dead, but still. Let's get this straight: April is not the cruelest month. November is the cruelest month. November could beat up April and steal its lunch money ten times out of ten.
Work has been more demanding lately: Lesson plans to create and serve up, homework to grade, special projects to evaluate, tests to inflict -- all that good stuff. Then what did I do? I got the bright idea that we needed a writing center for the students here at the university, so now I'm in the midst of a pilot program that was slated to end on November 30. Then what did I do? I got the bright idea that we should extend the program until December 7. So far we've had a great response from the students and it looks as if the writing center is on its way to becoming a reality. All good news of course, but just between you and me, this work nonsense has a way of tearing one's bloghouse down room by room.

Aren't people who waste valuable blog space whining about their busy-ness annoying? I don't mean to be tiresome. Actually, some great news came out of November: I'll be a member of the English Language and Literature Department next year. It will involve a bit more responsibility, but one of the play-pretties they dangled in front of me was a chance to teach Children's Literature. I'm excited but a little nervous because I've never taught a literature class before. I probably should try to make Peter Sieruta my newest and bestest friend.

As you can imagine, my reading stats were nearly flat this month. Only 6 books, and one was a movie novelization:

1. The Women - T.C. Boyle. I was prepared to dislike this book because of its stupid cover, but to my surprise, I enjoyed Boyle's take on Frank Lloyd Wright and his relationships with three different mistresses as seen through the eyes (in hilarious footnotes) of an older Japanese architect who, as a young man was an acolyte of "Writeo-San". Robust and highly entertaining. I have a feeling that if I read Loving Frank now, I wouldn't find it quite so interesting.

2. Embroideries - Marjane Satrapi. Over a samovar of hot tea, Marjane's grandmother, mother and other female relatives and friends comiserate about love and relationships and express their disdain for the antiquated notions about women still present in Iranian society. Embroideries isn't as dramatic of a story as Persepolis, but Satrapi's graphic style is as compelling as ever.

3. Beloved - Toni Morrison. My Cracked Spinz book group read this one and it's also a pick from my Pulitzer shelf. I loved Morrison's use of language and her slightly chaotic arrangement of the the story's strange and horrifying elements. Faulkner Guy is all lit up because Beloved and Morrison remind him of William Faulkner.

4. Letter From Peking - Pearl S. Buck. Not one of Buck's best. I would say she phoned this one in, but it was one of those phones with two tin cans and a piece of string. There were a couple of errors with characters' ages that were irritating.

5. Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh. We read this one for BOOKLEAVES and of course it's a re-re-re-re-read. This time, I was struck by just how rich Harriet's parents are. A cook, a nanny and a cleaning woman. Wow. I also thought about how this novel takes place during the same time as Mad Men. We weren't sure of the time frame at first because we were a little thrown off by the use of bottles of ink in Harriet's classroom, but one of the kids makes a reference to Ben Casey and Dr. Kildare which puts it around 1961-63. I tried to date it by the movie Mr. Waldenstein and Ole Golly take Harriet to, but there's no such movie. Ha! Good one, Louise Fitzhugh. Then there's Harriet. I still love her so much it hurts.

6. Dead Poets Society - N.H. Kleinbaum and Tom Schulman. This is a book/movie event for my Intermediate Conversation class. The style is pretty bad, but I made all those irritating synonyms for "said" and the unrelenting torrent of adverbs work for me as vocbulary practice. The storyline frustrates me more and more every time I encounter it (Mr. Keating seems curiously flat) but my students seemed to respond well as evidenced in one assignment in which they wrote letters to the character of their choice.


Carrie#K said...

But April is sneaky about it while November is upfront.

Congrats on the English Language & Lit Dept!

Harriet the Spy is the only book on your list that I've read or probably will read - TCBoyle is a really interesting writer but Frank Lloyd Wright leaves me cold.
(I may be holding a grudge as a local historical home found plans that he drew up in their attic, sold them for a bundle, and completely museumed out what used to be a great place to rummage around in. Now it's all spiffy and labeled.Pfft).

Carrie#K said...

Would those plans be worth more if they were found in their attic or if Frank Lloyd Wright drew them up while in their attic?

Eva said...

*whispers* I've never read Harriet the Spy.

Have you read quite a bit of Pearl Buck? I want to give her a go next year, and I'm not sure where to start. I tried The Good Earth (on audio) a couple years ago, and when the CDs were due back to the library, I wasn't particularly sad to stop in the middle.

On another note, I've always resented Eliot, since I'm an April baby!

Bookfool said...

April and November both have sucked for people in Yazoo City, Mississippi. They got hit by tornadoes in both months. At least, I think April was the other month.

I'm in an f2f reading group, now!!! And, my group read both The Women and Loving Frank. I am pathetic enough to have only made it halfway through Loving Frank and I didn't even bother with The Women, but I loved reading your viewpoint. The ladies in my group liked The Women but found those footnotes tedious.

Unruly Reader said...

Great work at work! It sounds like, while it may be exhausting, you're doing great things. Nevertheless, this here fan of boredom wishes you the same... very soon.

Care said...

HI Bybee! Even when you whine, I LOVE your posts. Sorry, I don't have anything intelligent to comment with. Happy December?

Anonymous said...

I agree. November could kick April's ass, although I hope he really doesn't...I'm kind of fond of April.

Congrats on becoming a faculty memeber!

Su-sieee! Mac said...

What good is a blog without a whine or two or three. :-) Congrats on your new position.

I always walked by that Boyle book because of the cover. Next time I see it, I just might take it home with me. My fun reading was pitiful last month. Started re-reading Deathly Hollow after seeing the movie.

Happy Holidays!

Avid Reader said...

Congrats to you!

Harriet the Spy remains one of my fav YA books. Also, I read Loving Frank and have been curious about The Women. I wonder what my reaction to it would be since I read Loving Frank first.