View From The Glen

Friday, April 20, 2012

14,000 Days

Andrew heard a podcast the other week where a comedian was explaining that he refused to do things that didn't interest him because he was 40 and because the average life expectancy is 80 and because that meant he has about 14600 days left on earth.

It was apparently very funny.

But I figure that means I have around 14000 days left, and maybe, just maybe, that's why I am getting less tolerant as I get older.

Less tolerant of bad books.

Less tolerant of wasting time.

Less tolerant of people who don't give back.

On the other hand, I'm almost hyper-attuned to some of the great people, places and things that are in my life.

I'm going to spend my 14,000 days enjoying their company.

Signed up a bunch of girlfriends to do a Daiquiri Day in June....That's a good start:)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Screw the Hunger Games....

In January, my book club read The Hunger Games, which I had bought for the same reason I buy most YA fiction...because I think my kids may want to read it. I read Harry Potter the year Erik, now almost 12, was born, and adored it. I read The Golden Compass and thought it was okay, but none of my children have so far cared enough to try it. I bought Twilight the graphic novel because Anna was invited to a sleepover and the theme (rather maturely, I thought for 8 year olds) was Team Edward-Team Jacob. I also bought the trilogy, and thought it so badly written I couldn't get past the first book and they sit sad and lonesome on the bottom shelf in the library.

The Hunger Games I quite enjoyed and Erik picked it up tonight for the first time. Quite enjoyed...but  I can't say I loved it (though many others in my book club most certainly did) and I haven't yet rushed off to buy the other two in the series.

There has been a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction with my reading of late. I was unable to pinpoint it until recently, after our last book club where we discussed Sarah's Key, another decent read I couldn't in all honesty say I loved. I was talking with another friend who noted that so many of the books we read are good and entertaining, but not really great reads.

I thought about this for awhile, and it is true. We read what amounts to a great deal of fluff. And I'm not opposed to fluff in any real sense. I too want light and easy at the end of the day, the end of the week.

At the same time, when I read other deeper books such as Pasternek's Doctor Zhivago, something awakens in me.  It's not just the philosophy, the intelligent commentary that gives pause on nearly every's not just the incredible detail that forces you to slow down and savour every line...

It's the beauty and poetry and majesty of the way books like this were written. Clever. Thoughtful. Insightful. It's the quality of the work, the satisfaction of perfectly chosen words and deliberate actions.

That realization started me on a new course of action. Revisiting the classics. And so here I am reveling in Wuthering Heights, Lady Chatterley's Lover. Setting aside Howard's End, The Portrait of A Lady. Enjoying well written pieces that cross my path: I just read and was delighted with P.D. James' The Children of Men which my mother in law left for me at Easter. Not the story - which was well done - but the writing, which was paced and modulated and felt crafted.

Crafted. I guess that's what I am looking for. Not all the time, no. But enough of the time. Half Blood Blues is a modern book that met that criteria (I thought). I'm sure there are others.

Today, my daughters joined their first book clubs. A place to read and enjoy books with friends, where opinions are formed, where it is safe to speak out, where they can hopefully discover something about themselves. We really left it up to them to pick books, figuring that it has to be fun. I'm good with that.

But as a reader, as a mother, as a college teacher who faces students unable to get through a 7 page short story because the language and ideas are too difficult, part of me is edgy. If they start off on fluff now, will they ever graduate to better books? Can I somehow slip into their list a few classics - Jane Eyre? Little Women? - and encourage them to read these as well? Or is it enough for now (and I have reluctantly accepted that it is) that they are reading and discussing?

But what I really want to do is shout this from the rooftop.

Screw The Hunger Games...I want my kids to read To Kill A Mockingbird.