Tag: classics

Talking Classical Novels with My Mom

It was so much fun today over at my youtube channel.  My Mom was kind of enough to join me on my channel for 2 videos about one of our favorite topics- books!  Particularly classic novels.  I’d love if you checked them out and gave them thumbs up.  Thanks!

I’m always open to anyone who wants come on my channel and help me with a video.  If you are willing let me know.  Even better if you have an idea for a video that would be amazing!

Thanks Mom!

North and South Final Discussion Questions

north and south2You guys all know North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is my favorite book and recently some of my twitter/blogger friends have been hosting a read-along and discussion group.  I posted my answers to the first sets of questions here. Now here are the final set of questions and my answers.  If you’ve read the book I would love your comments and thoughts.

Check out Suey’s Books answers here

1.  There’s much talk about all the deaths in this book. What are your feelings on that? Do you think they were necessary? Or too much?

I think it was just a part of Victorian living especially in a big city like Milton.  Maybe this sounds cold but I was actually glad to see Mr and Mrs Hale go because I never cared much for either of their characters.  I feel they are the weakest as far as character development in the novel.

I always felt like Gaskell missed the boat with Mr Hale. He starts out the novel doing this bold thing of uprooting his family and leaving his profession but then the rest of the story he is a complete pansy, dominated by his wife and others.  Mrs Hale is a character we didn’t learn much about it and is kind of a big nag so no love loss for me.They are both necessary characters to get the story moving in different directions and once served their purpose glad to see them go.

In our discussion on twitter someone mentioned perhaps Mr Hale wasn’t being bold but running away from the situation.  That is a very interesting point I had never pondered before (and I’ve read the book at least 10 times so you never stop learning about a book!).  What do you think? Is he a credible character? The rest of Gaskell’s characters are so strong I’m willing to give her a pass on 2.

Anyway, the only death that does affect me is Bessie because she is so sweet and innocent.  It is the classic Victorian type of death to frail figures such as Beth in Little Women. The nice one’s always get taken first. 😉

Aside from being important in moving the plot along, the deaths do force Margaret to do her final growing up.  She doesn’t have anyone to lean on which is key to her complete change and strength.
2. Was there anything that happened during this last part that you found surprising or unexpected? Or was everything very predictable?

I guess Leonards getting thrown by Frederick onto the train and dying is a tense surprising scene but the rest is somewhat predictable but in a very engrossing way.  It’s hard to say because it’s been so long since I read it for the first time in 2006.

3. What are your feelings on the about face Margaret and Mr. Thornton have with regard to their financial status?

It’s completely devastating for Thornton. In our day we tend to villainize anyone with money- the 1% you might say. Think of a movie like The Social Network where Zuckerberg is the bad guy and really only because he is the head of Facebook and uber-rich.

Gaskell is so great at tying Thornton’s wealth to his self-worth in an admirable way.  His father devastated his world by being foolish with money, so Thornton’s goal is to do something good for himself, family and those around him by being a good steward of his factory and money.

This tie between financial success and his character can be seen in this quote:

“Architect of his own fortunes, he attributed this to no special merit or qualities of his own, but to the power, which he believed that commerce gave to every brave, honest, and persevering man, to raise himself to a level from which he might see and read the great game of worldly success”

The change in fate was almost like God saying he was a failure not just his business.

When he loses the factory it is as if the world is saying to him he is no better than his father. It’s just devastating.

Margaret getting money is more of a convenience for the story and less influential on her character.

4. Do you think Margaret is justified in being so anguished over the lie that she told? Does it mostly have to do with her feelings for Mr. Thornton? Or something else?
I do because it is such a humbling moment for her.  She is a character that prides herself on her good instincts and doing the right thing.  That’s why she jumped in front of the mob. The idea she would lie and more importantly anyone would think she had sullied her name with a secret romance is too much.

The fact it is Mr Thornton, who she is beginning to have feelings for, makes it even worse. But we all have more shame when our sins are made public than when they are confessed to God alone.  That’s just human nature.
5. At what moment exactly do you think her feelings for Mr. Thornton completely changed?

I think when Mrs Thornton comes to talk to her after the incident and she asks herself

“Why do I care what he thinks, beyond the mere loss of his good opinion as regards my telling the truth or not? I cannot tell…”  That’s the beginning of the realization of how much the loss of his good opinion hurts her.

6. Discuss the character of Nicholas Higgins. What do you think about the relationship he has with Mr. Thornton? Did he change Mr. Thornton? Did Mr. Thornton change him?
He’s a lovely character.  I think he is a man who is a great follower but not a great leader.  In that sense him and Thornton balance each other out very well.  When he waits at the door and pleads for a job it is such a humble moment.  He is trying to do the right thing but he is not a Messiah character.  He makes mistakes but pleads anyway. It’s such a well written scene.  Thornton just can’t turn someone so sincere away.

7. How does Mr. Thornton’s views on the master/worker relationship change? Or. . .did it change? Did your view on this issue change as you experienced this book?
I think Thornton realizes how much he needs the good workers.  When Higgins does the extra work to get the job done it is such a lovely moment. Before the strike he probably saw his men as somewhat replaceable and now he knows better.

I’ve never been a big fan of unions but Gaskell does such a good job not showing her hand. We don’t know if she likes the unions or thinks they are thugs.  A lesser writer would have gone one way or the other, so as a result of her skill I am also left unsure.  They certainly do much good and are needed but they can also be bullies and misrepresent the needs of the workers.

8. Do you have a favorite quote from this book? If so, share and let us know why it’s your favorite.
“He shrank from hearing Margaret’s very name mentioned; he, while he blamed her–while he was jealous of her–while he renounced her–he loved her sorely, in spite of himself.”

(It doesn’t get much better than that my friends…)

9. The ending! Are you happy with how things turned out? (Try not to compare with the movie here… that’s for a later question!)

I love the ending.  I think it is a sweet moment.  Shouldn’t you feel like you are getting the better partner when you marry? I love when they say “I am not worthy”. I think that is beautiful and not over-the-top like a more tawdry novel might do (but gives us a little more romantic dialogue than Austen ever does).

10. What aspect of this book would you like to address that we haven’t yet talked about? Is there something we’ve skipped over in our discussions that makes you want to say… “Yeah, but what about….?”  And if you’ve got nothing there, answer this: Did you like the book? Why or why not?

It is my favorite book.  It improves on me every time I read it because of how much I love the characters.  A great book allows its characters to grow over time and is rich enough to show that growth in a wide range of characters not just the central hero.

Gaskell is a master at allowing Margaret to change from a pampered princess who scorns men of business as not gentlemanly enough to a humble, sweet landlord. That’s pretty amazing. Thornton also grows from a man who has been idolized to a wounded but proud creature. It’s so lovely.

Smaller characters show wonderful growth like Mrs Thornton and Higgins. It’s a book I never tire of reading because I like the people so much. I like being in their world.

I love how it tackles issues beyond a romantic drama that we still face today but it doesn’t beat you over the head with them.  It presents certain perspectives and lets you as a reader decide what you think.

I also love how Gaskell writes women in all of her novels including North and South.  They are independent, confident, thinkers with strong character arcs.  If you think about the women in most Dickens novels they are weak, frail creatures, so it is a huge accomplishment what Gaskell does.  If you changed the language and clothes her characters feel very modern in behavior and choices.

I really do think it is the best novel I have ever read and when I’m frustrated with preachy modern stories with predictable characters I pull it out and read it again.  It just always makes me happy.

BONUS MOVIE THOUGHTS:

The miniseries is excellent.  I still think it would make a great feature film and I’m shocked nobody in Hollywood has taken it up as a project.  For the record I think Michael Fassbender would be the perfect Thornton.

The movie has gorgeous cinematography and the recreation of the cotton mill using an actual museum in England is amazing.

cotton-snowflakes-north-and-south-factoryThe script adaptation by the amazing Sandy Welch is wonderful.  She manages to not only include everything from the novel but give a few scenes a modern sensibility which is quite lovely and in keeping with the spirit of Gaskell’s prose.

The score is also lovely by Martin Phipps- drawing you in and creating tension and passion when needed.

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But the real strength of the miniseries is the casting.  Of course Richard Armitage is so good as Thornton.  He captures the pride and all those British stares we expect in such a movie.  He also is vulnerable and towards the end quite devastating. A lesser actor may have played him very one note but he completely captures the nuances of Gaskell’s writing .

cotton-snowflakes-north-and-south

That said, I don’t think Daniela Denby-Ashe gets quite the credit she deserves as Margaret.  She is quite up to the task for sparring with Armitage. There is an elegance and innocence to her performance that endears her to the viewer right away.

The rest of the cast is wonderful including Brendan Coyle as Higgins who would later be famous in Downton Abbey as Mr Bates.  Sinead Cusack is also so great as Mrs Thornton.

 

The Endingnorth-and-south-ending1

A lot of people in the discussion group were upset with the ending in the book.  Here’s what I would say to them.

I like the ending in the movie.  It is a suspension of belief, a fairytale and extremely romantic. The man looks across the train station and see’s the girl and he has loosed the knot in his cravat all casual style. He comes towards her and they talk, declare their love and kiss. I love it!

But does it really make sense to the rest of the story?  Think about it.  The pair were almost kept apart because of a mistaken scene in a train station between Margaret and another man.  Would either of them really have kissed in public like that?  No way.  While it is very romantic as fairytales can be I actually prefer the ending in the book.

They have had passionate discussions throughout the book and how appropriate for it all to come down to the two of them talking and finally understanding one another.  I love how they both feel unworthy of the other’s love and good opinion.  That is perfect for a book based on two people who start out the story feeling superior to each other in every way.

I probably won’t convince anyone but I love both endings. 🙂

North and South Study Questions 1 and 2

I love Gaskell and North and South is probably my favorite book

Readers of this blog will know that North and South is my favorite book.  I read it every year when I get discouraged by the lame modern novels I find.  I love it for a lot of reasons.  Mostly Gaskell is so great at creating characters that are layered and change subtly over the course of the story until you feel so attached to them.

She also is so great at writing women.  Whether it is Margaret in North and South, Molly in Wives and Daughters or all the women in Cranford she creates independent modern women who would be comfortable in any current setting.  I love how forceful they are with their opinions and make their own life choices.

north and south2North and South is her masterpiece creating two characters Mr Thornton and Margaret Hale who are almost off-putting at first both stuck in their worlds.  Then life throws them together and they change until you want them to be happy so badly.

She also throws in very interesting social commentary and is more subtle than her contemporaries  Dickens and Elliot.  For example, the union men in North and South are painted as thugs and brutes but also starving and unheard.  I’ve read North and South over 10 times and I have no idea what Gaskell’s actual position on unions really was.  That’s a sign of a great writer.

So I bring up North and South now because a few of my blogging friends  are doing a book club read of it and I am woefully late in posting my answers to the questions.  To find her answers and the other bloggers check out her blog for links

http://sueysbooks.blogspot.com/2014/12/north-and-south-read-along-january-2015.html#uds-search-results

So here are my answers to the first 2 set of discussion questions.  A few of them I took out because I didn’t have anything to say on them.  If you have read North and South would love to hear your answers.

northandsouth

  1. Have you seen the BBC mini-series? Is the book anything like you expected it to be?

Yes, in fact I read the book before I saw the miniseries. I love it and I think it is one of the most stylish BBC series with beautiful production design and cinematography. I like all the casting.

However, I think the book is quite different. The book is less whimsical than the movie. Like the ending would never have happened in the era of the book. I like both.

  1. Why do you think Margaret refused Henry? He seems like such a nice chap.

Margaret has a very heightened idea of a gentleman and the kind of person who is worthy of her. Henry is definitely not up to snuff with the Heleston Margaret.

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  1. What are your first impressions of Mr. Thornton?

I actually feel both Margaret and Thornton start off the book kind of unlikable. Margaret seems like a snob and Thornton a bullish boss. That’s what makes the journey so great.

  1. Why is Margaret so indifferent to Mr. Thornton, but she can make friends with the Higgins? They are both northern people and have different customs.

It’s kind of similar to Emma in Emma spending time with Harriet or the Bates. It is more of a condescending and serving the Higgins where Thornton needs none of that service.

  1. What differences are you seeing so far between the north and the south?

I don’t know if we ever get a real view of Heleston and the South because Margaret see’s it as an idyllic home which is easy to do when you aren’t living there. She see’s it through rose colored glasses like someone might do to a special vacation home.

Milton in contrast is immediately very realistic and gritty, grimy and even cold.

 north and south 2

  1. Do you think Mr. Hale was justified in leaving the church and his position?

Mr Hale is the one part of the book that is a problem for me. Leaving the church was a such a bold choice and I never feel like he is the type of personality to do something like that. You have to accept it in order to get the story going but he is such a weak human being the rest of the book it is hard to buy.

  1. What are your feelings on Frederick’s situation?

I don’t know enough about the navy and such things at that time but I buy it. I think it works to give Margaret something she has to hide from the world. It humbles her and makes her realize she can be lower than Thornton.

  1. What are your thoughts on the master and worker relationship

I think it is a necessary part of life. There are going to be leaders and followers. It actually usually runs pretty well. Where you get into problems is people who are bad at following and bad at leading. That’s where conflict comes in to play. Margaret is not a good follower and Higgens isn’t really a good leader. He is better at supporting people he loves. What Margaret fails to see is that by being a good yet stern boss Thornton is respecting his workers. He learns to do even more but how often do we, like Margaret assume leaders are all bad merely because they are leading.

  1. Have your feelings changed towards Mr. Thornton during this section of the book?

Thonton taking lessons from Mr Hale I think helps endear him to the reader pretty quickly. There’s a humility there. His back and forths with Margaret help create building tension and an intriguing character. You learn a lot about him through their debates.

north and south

  1. Have your feelings towards Margaret changed?

Margaret is a very independent woman. She almost reminds me of Belle from Beauty and the Beast . She is bold with her opinion and forward about making friends and getting involved with local issues. All this makes her very likable. She is never dishonest with anyone even when her feelings and impressions are wrong they are her feelings. No attempt to lie to anyone. Another likable traits.

  1. What do you think about the riot and how Margaret and Mr. Thornton reacted?

It’s a superbly written scene. Gaskell builds tension perfectly and throughout the book she does a good job not really saying whether the union is the enemy or to be admired. I honestly don’t know what is going to happen each time I read it because it’s hard to know whether the mob likes Margaret or not. When she gets struck it is quite shocking but her actions make sense because we the readers are feeling the same way Margaret is about the mob. Thornton seems to be the only one who knows what is going to happen and there is a desperation in all of his actions.

  1. Did Bess’s or Mrs. Hale’s deaths effect you in any way

Bess’s death affected me because she is such a lovely sympathetic character. Mrs Hale I never really bonded with so I was kind of glad to see her go.

  1. Were you surprised to learn that it wasn’t common for women to attend funerals? What are your feelings on that tidbit?

That was interesting. Kind of silly really. They should be able to all mourn and pay their respect. Different culture I suppose.

Higgins and Thornton
Higgins and Thornton
  1. Now that we’ve met Frederick, do you like him? Are you sympathetic to his predicament?

Yes, I think he is a likable figure. He made mistakes but they seem understandable given the chaos of war. You don’t get to know him very well but what we do he seems sweet and sincere.

  1. What are your feelings on Mr. Thornton’s proposal?

It’s devastating. Gaskell does such a great job building these characters bit-by-bit until you want them to be happy. Thornton gives such a noble proposal. Unlike say Darcy he hasn’t really done anything worthy of Margaret’s disdain. She has yet to let go of the notions she picked up living with her cousins. In her defense she has had a lot to take in during a short period of time. She’s moved to a foreign local, father disgraced leaving the church, lost her Mother, dealt with Frederick and worked with the unions and Higgens. It’s a lot where Thornton has had to deal with just the union. So I give her a bit of a pass.

Elizabeth Gaskell
Elizabeth Gaskell
  1. If you were in Mr. Thornton’s place, having seen the person you love with a stranger late at night, then finding out that person was questioned by the police and lied, would you do the same thing Mr. Thornton did? Would you protect that person even though you think they have done questionable things?

It’s hard to say. I’m not a very good liar so I would probably let it slip even if I didn’t want too. I think he knows there is more to the story or at least hopes there is. We always hope we would do the honorable thing but who knows.

  1. Do you think Margaret’s feelings towards Mr. Thornton have changed? Why?

Definitely. Margaret starts to notice Thornton more after the proposal and the Frederick lie is huge in getting her to see things in a new way. Gaskell is so great at her subtle character development.

The Christmas Without any Presents

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents”

That my friends is the opening line to one of my favorite novels and the first big book I remember reading- Little Women.  In the story the March sisters have been told by their Mother they should forgo Christmas presents because “it is going to be a hard winter for everyone; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the army. We can’t do much, but we can make our little sacrifices”

little women2 As the story continues they decide to spend the dollar they have on themselves but unselfish Beth convinces them to instead buy a present for their Mother.  The girls get as much pleasure selecting gifts for their Marmee (Mother) as if it had been for themselves. They even end up giving their Christmas breakfast to a family in need rather than enjoy it alone.

littlewomen1While I am eventually getting the desire of my heart for Christmas, and the March girls went without, I found myself thinking about this classic scene today as I kind of had a Christmas without any presents.

I’m not complaining at all as I had a great day but it was an interesting experience to have a Christmas with one present to open (an awesome book from my sister! Thanks Meg).

le creusetSadly even the gift to myself was a bust as my Le Creuset pot had a giant crack down the side (both sides).  I can return it of course but that was a bit of a letdown.

My siblings and I didn’t exchange gifts this year and my parents are bringing me my gift on Monday (so again don’t feel sorry for me by any means).

I’m not going to lie to you and say my experience was perfect and I didn’t miss opening presents on Christmas.  Of course I did.  That’s part of the fun of Christmas is opening presents and seeing what people have thought to get you.

But on the other hand it did force me to focus on the day in a new way.  I know this will sound cheesy but I found myself as excited to see the reactions of the presents I had sent as I would normally be for my own presents.

Particularly my gifts for my nieces were a big hit.  I had found a lady on facebook who made bow and arrow sets for kids and sent one to all 5 of my nieces and they loved them!

archery archery2I was also excited to see what my Mother thought about the knitting book I got her or my Dad the Beethoven set he had requested.

I also looked at my life for the many gifts I have and tried to focus on those.  I got invited to my friends The Porters for Christmas day breakfast this morning and what a lovely way to start off the day.  I’m so blessed by good friends in my life.  I got to see the sister missionaries and think about the gift my mission was. I’m so grateful my favorite mission comp Julia Graves is coming to visit on Tuesday.

I woke up to snow on Christmas when we had none up to the 24th.  I don’t know if I have ever had a true White Christmas out of nowhere like that before.  It was really fun.

snowI put together a version of our German Christmas Eve meal and thanked my Heavenly Father for the food I have and the bounty in my life.

christmas dinnerI looked at my tree and felt grateful for each of the memories captured on my Memory Tree. The travels, smiling faces and love that abounds in my heart.

I thought about the joy art, music, theater and film give my life.  Yesterday I went to see It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen and had a tremendous experience (probably causing me to be extra sentimental today).

http://54disneyreviews.wordpress.com/2014/12/25/bonus-holiday-review-its-a-wonderful-life/

Aside from the breakfast, I have basically spent Christmas day alone.  I know people who would find that idea incredibly depressing, almost unimaginable.  And yet today I felt gratitude for the overwhelming blessings of my life.

Mostly I felt grateful for the gift of Christ’s birth and atonement in my life. For my knowledge of His goodness and love and that when I am alone he is always there to buoy me up and I mean ALWAYS.

for unto usSo yes Jo, I can confidently say ‘Christmas is still Christmas without any presents’.  It is what you make of it and in the end we all have many presents just being an America and living a life with a witness of Jesus Christ in our hearts.  That is what this Christmas taught me.  While I missed opening presents (I’m not a saint!) I realized its a tertiary joy of Christmas not the primary reason to celebrate. Sounds cheesy but it’s true.

And as Clarence told George Bailey- ‘no man is a failure who has friends’. Thanks to all of you for being my friends this holiday season.

failure

Wizard of Oz

Tonight I had a special experience.  I got to see Wizard of Oz restored in 3D at the IMAX. It is playing through the end of the week so if you get a chance see it!   Its amazing.   They don’t make movies like that any more.  The songs, sets, story, acting, everything is so wonderful.  I have said before on my blog that Over the Rainbow is my favorite song of all time.  I have 13 versions of it on my ipod.  I love Judy Garland and think her life is one of such heartbreak.

https://smilingldsgirl.com/2010/10/26/favorite-songs/

I love the story of finding home, protecting your friends, searching for your dreams, and facing evil.  The lesson Dorothy learns through her entire journey in Oz is pretty great:

“if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with!”

 

wizard of oz2  wizard of oz3wizard of oz6 wizard of oz4 wizard of oz5

200th Birthday Pride and Prejudice

(part of this posted yesterday without my realizing it.  Sorry)

We decided to do something different this month for book club.  Instead of all reading the same book we decided to each read a Jane Austen and then we would meet and discuss them.  I’m looking forward to it.  So, I had to decide which Jane Austen to tackle.  I have read all of them, of course, so it would be rereading for sure but which one? I realized I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice for years, maybe since college, and it seemed ripe for another perusal.

So this week I started to read it again, both via traditional and audiobook, and I wondered at first if I would be as dazzled as I was at 17.  That year I was going to community college, living in California with no friends and I had a month long winter break to fill up.  In desperation I decided to read Sense and Sensibility.

Its funny because its probably Jane Austen’s most challenging book (its pretty slow moving) but being a big fan of the movie I loved it.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I immediately read Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion within the course of my break.   Its hard to say what I responded to so quickly in Jane Austen’s prose.  They have such austere characters within the confines of a culture so distant from my own; yet, I was completely engaged.

(so I didn’t realize this blog was published yesterday. Sorry guys.  Here’s the rest of it)

In the end, the long lasting effect of Pride and Prejudice and other Austen novels persists  because her characters are fully-rounded, strong-willed women.  This translates to any era and gives all women something to hope for.  The fact is marriage and romance will always be the grand desire of the human heart because we all seek to be understood by at least one person with that one person being forever loyal to us.  All of Jane Austen’s  characters spur social customs and refuse to settle for anything other than complete understanding in the marriage relationship

Pride and Prejudice is her masterpiece.  It creates characters who do not even know their own hearts until they meet.  It is a story that teaches the reader about human frailty.  If left only to our own devices (as Darcy remarks about his childhood) we will develop certain flaws that will cause us to see the world incorrectly.  It is only when someone points out those flaws that our world is opened and we can truly love.

Both Darcy and Lizzie fail to see anything but their own perspective or point of view.  That is such a hard lesson to learn and how great to have characters in a novel help educate us!

Pride and Prejudice also shows that the human brain knows intrinsically what will make us happy.  It is only when we listen to the world’s definition of happiness that we are left cold.  Lizzie knew that a marriage of convenience, despite its worldly benefits could never make her happy, and what is life if it is not happy?  Darcy must have also known that Lizzie was the person who could make him happy despite her refusals.  Both characters learn that when your soul is telling you to go a direction, even if socially divergent, go, run if you have to.

One of the most flawed characters in Pride and Prejudice is Mr Bennett.  He makes no choices in his life and is content to let it pass him by.  A lazy parent at best, Mr Bennett doesn’t intervene with Lydia or the girls until disaster strikes and even then he admits he will get over the shame more quickly than he should.  Lydia is an idiot, but she is young and at least she has made choices and has passion.  I can respect that much more than idly sitting by and doing nothing.

Wickham is of course the true scoundrel of the story.  Having all the appearance of good nature but none of the moral fortitude he oils his way into every situation, getting what he wants at great cost to others.  However, he does provide an important boost to the plot.  By being true evil, he lessens and then removes any remaining angst the reader feels about Darcy’s pride and conceit.  Perhaps pride is not so bad when it helps avoid wreckless abandon, theft, lust and depravity of Wickham? He also gives Darcy a dramatic way to show his love for Lizzy that leaves her (and the reader) overwhelmed.   There is no doubt Darcy LOVES Lizzy after what he has done.

I happen to believe that all modern romantic comedies can be traced back to Pride and Prejudice and Taming of the Shrew. In both stories you have strong willed souls who are right for each other but just can’t see it.  This tension makes the reader route for them along the way.  Both are written with a wit and satire that makes the journey fun (something most rom coms have lost today).

With both, you feel immediately that the characters are good, if flawed people and you want to see them happy.  That is what most rom coms today miss when they borrow the old formulas.  Yes, the characters don’t like each other at the beginning, but they are both quickly presented as good people who you want to be happy.  The reader is rooting for some resolution all the way and when it seems to be the most impossible the book is at its finest.

I think this is why Pride and Prejudice bears so well to all kinds of treatments whether it be Bollywood, the 5 hour BBC, or the 2005 Kiera Knightly version.  Its hard to make me not like these characters and get drawn into the story.

Yes, we know how it will turn out but its the delightful journey of ‘how’ that makes Pride and Prejudice so great.

It is truly a masterpiece and I enjoyed reading it again.  You should read it again too!

Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813 and is 200 years old this year.  Happy Birthday!

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Writing and Reading for Children and Teens

This is a quick post- (Believe me I will do my 3rd interview I just want to make sure it is well thought out and that my political opinions are explained adequately).

On Saturday I went to an awesome literary symposium put on by the Provo Library.  This was with my friend Emily Whitman who has been my BFF for 11 years.  With 2 kids and my busy work-life it is harder to get together than I would like, especially a full afternoon so Saturday was such a treat.

We got to meet Haven Kimmel who wrote the wonderful memoir A Girl Named Zippy- a book which holds a special place in my heart because it is about growing up in Indiana.  I have never met an author that I admire and it was so interesting to hear her perspective.  She seemed a little melancholy over the recent changes in the publishing industry and said:

“I’m not sure how to continue in an art form that has changed so much that I no longer know how to perform it.”

But she was also very funny and there was a spirited debate over the advent of ebooks.  In her mind they lessened the archival nature of a library, created a technological ‘upgrade’ need and excluded the poor/disadvantaged from the freedom provided by free books.  It was interesting to me because I purchased a kindle in August expecting to love it but I haven’t.  I rarely use it and prefer a real book that I can write notes in and arrows (I know you can do that in a kindle but I find it very tedious).

In fact, if anyone wants to buy a traditional 3G kindle I will give you a good deal (of course, they came out with the fire literally 2 weeks after my purchase!).

Anyway, the second session of the conference was on teen literature.  While it was interesting I disagreed with the attitude of the presenter.  She was a teacher in the public school system and to me she had a very defeatist attitude (she was a perky lady but still defeatist).

One of the first things she said was ‘It would be nice for my students to be reading more challenging books but at least they are reading’.  Then as she continued one of her main qualifications for a book being a good recommendation was that it was ‘really fast’.  I felt like she said that phrase 30 times in the hour. (Tell that to all the kids pouring through Harry Potter at 0ver 700 pages).

Her attitude annoyed me because I feel it is emblematic of a culture of compliance that we have in nurturing children and teenagers.  We could encourage them to do better, be more, but instead we are happy with the least modicum of effort.

I’m not saying every child has to read Foucault and Thoreau but let’s not assume they can’t.  Let’s see the greatest potential in all the people around us whether it is reading, dieting, learning, whatever. The greatest people in my life always saw my potential, the biggest disappointments failed to help nurture me (I still feel some resentment towards my high school choir teacher who stomped on my talent so hard I didn’t sing for 7 years in public after).

Once a child/teen is presented with reading options and they chose Diary of a Wimpy Kid, no problem.  At least they are reading something over nothing. (I have never read Wimpy kid but that was just the example the speaker used about what her high school senior kids are reading). I just want the options to be presented and to not assume they will immediately go for something less challenging.  I hated that assumption growing up.

It turns out there is quite a lively debate on this topic on the web spawned by an article in the New York Daily News by Alexander Nazaryan.

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/01/against-walter-dean-myers-and-the-dumbing-down-of-literature-those-kids-can-read-h

http://oinks.squeetus.com/2012/01/in-which-i-gamely-stick-out-my-tongue.html

I’m actually inclined to agree more with Nazaryan.  As mentioned above, this feeling comes from the way I felt as a child.  I hated being pandered too and treated like I was stupid because I was young.  I wanted nothing more than to be shown the respect I felt I deserved.  I wanted to be heard and taken seriously from a very young age.

One of my greatest goals if I am ever a parent is to let my children win an argument.  This might sound funny but I want them to know that they have the ability to think things through on their own and that Mother is not always right.  (Not every argument, but I want my kids to feel a freedom of expression and to learn to back up their thoughts as well as they can).

Basically my feeling on writing for children and teenagers is summed up best by Dr.  Seuss (a man who is about as creative as it gets, so proof my approach does not limit magic or youthfulness in kids):

I don’t write for children. I write for people.” Or, as he once told an interviewer, “I think I can communicate with kids because I don’t try to communicate with kids. Ninety percent of the children’s books patronize the child and say there’s a difference between you and me, so you listen to this story. I, for some reason or another, don’t do that. I treat the child as an equal.”

Finally, I think most teens are turned off of reading not because of difficult, boring books but because of the way those books are dissected in the classroom.    If kids were allowed to present their own point of view instead of over-analyzing character motivations and styles I think they wouldn’t be as turned off.  I think it is more a matter of approach than the material itself.

For Christmas I was debating about getting my 12 year old sister Pride and Prejudice, but I did and she was excited.  I could have gotten her Prom and Prejudice (as suggested by the speaker) but I had confidence to give her the real thing.  I think with a little digging we can see the literary potential of all of the people around us, especially the youth, and their life will be better for the faith we show in them.

It is also important to remember that you aren’t going to win with every suggestion.  They might even hate what you put out there for them to read but I think that is good.  Development of a critical eye and a well reasoned mind is part of the learning process.  I read Scarlet Letter as a teen and hated it, still do, but you can bet I can explain why I dislike it so much! I could then, I can now!

So, that’s my opinion on that.  What do you think?  How do you think we should approach reading for teens and children?  Are the classics still relevant and important to introduce or is just getting them reading enough?

(Nice what I think of as a quick post… 🙂 )