Monday, March 27, 2006

Did I Have A Good Day? I Can't Tell

Today was a mixed bag. I finished revising the talk I'm going to give this Saturday at an American Association of University Women luncheon. I worked on it at least a couple of days last week (not all day, of course, because there's absolutely nothing that I do for an entire day, and I like it much better than the script I used last year. Now I just have to practice reading it for the rest of the week. I read a short story that Stephen J. McDermott blogged about at Storyglossia. That blog is turning out to be fantastic. I also reread A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Flannery O'Connor because we're doing this impromptu short story discussion at Readerville. And I caught up with A Novel in a Year and got a great idea for the setting of that book.

So that seems as if I had a good day. Even if I didn't accomplish a lot of writing, the reading ought to be improving in some way, right? It's important to study, isn't it?

Then I made two phone calls to bookstores I had already contacted to see if I could arrange author appearances to support Happy Kid! when it comes out in May. I hate doing store appearances, and I don't believe they do a whole lot of good. I just want to have a couple because I think an author has a better chance of getting newspaper coverage if she's making an appearance in the area. That sort of makes it news whereas evidently newspapers think the mere fact that you're having a book published is something else.

Well, neither store is ready to make a commitment. I think one of them isn't going to, and if the other store comes across I'll never contact the first one again. But in the meantime, I am not enjoying this.

But then my editor sent me a copy of the cover for Happy Kid!, so that was nice.

Fay Who?

I've been all excited for a week or two because Fay Weldon is supposed to be coming to UConn. I contacted my nephew about this because he attends the school and works in the Coop. Surely, I thought, I would need a ticket to get into a Fay Weldon event. My young relative said he'd heard nothing about Fay Weldon coming to campus and didn't think anyone knew who she was.

Because I'm a witch (or something that sounds like one), I feel a little better about my bookstore problems because of that story. And it suggests I shouldn't have any trouble getting in to see her.

Fay Weldon has written children's books, though I have yet to read any of them.

Reading Lists

In It's a Tale of Two Approaches, high school reading lists are hit by some for not being demanding enough. I assume by high school reading lists, they mean the pool of books that teachers choose from when planning what they'll cover for the year and not summer reading lists.

Man do I hate summer reading lists.

But, back to the article in question: Some of the people quoted felt a diet of demanding classics is necessary in order to teach students how to think and prepare them for college. Learning how to think is good, of course. And a knowledge of our our culture's literature enriches life. But beyond that I begin to feel a lot of ambiguity. Who decides what is a classic? Yesterday I called The Count of Monte Cristo a classic, but I've got a feeling it's just escapist fluff to some of the people who want kids to be reading Camus. While I'm a big fan of Jane Eyre and think it's worthy of study at some point in life because it was a model for so many books that followed it, it really is basically a romance. Is that a classic that kids absolutely need to be exposed to in order to move on in life?

It's also hard for me to get behind a steady diet of the classics because that means abandoning YA, and I think young people need YA. A steady diet of classics will pretty much mean reading about people who are not at all like the high school students doing the reading. I know I sure didn't feel a whole lot of connection with ol' Huck Finn when I read him in high school, even though he was my age or younger. And I got far, far more out of Romeo and Juliet when I reread it a few years ago than I ever did when I was a teenager.

What does being told year after year that great literature is literature that has nothing to do with you have to say about the status of the young?

Well, it probably says boat loads, actually.

Thanks to Blog of a Bookslut for that link.

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