Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Salon - 1.18.09

Well, if you read my last post - and noticed my lack of posts for the week - you have surmised that my free time has diminished considerably since school started. While I do still feel overwhelmed, I also feel blessed that I "have to" read classic literature for a living. How great is that?! So while I have not had much time to read books for fun, I have been reading.

I am still not confident enough in my writing/reviewing capabilities to post a full-scale review (I am hoping that I will overcome this inferiority complex in due time), I can tell you what books I have been reading and my limited insight into them. First of all, I read Wuthering Heights over the Christmas break (yes, it was the first time that I had read this amazing classic) and I read it in anticipation of the PBS Masterpiece Theater production - which will be shown in 2 episodes, beginning this evening and continuing next Sunday evening. I also understand from the Barnes and Noble classics bookclub that the episode will be available online through February 1. So, if you have the time, you might want to check it out.

I did manage to read one book that I can count towards the "Just for the Love of it" reading challenge hosted by Sheri of A Novel Menagerie. I read the collection of three short holiday stories by Truman Capote entitled, A Christmas Memory, One Christmas, and the Thanksgiving Visitor. I requested this book prior to Thanksgiving and it only became available after the holiday season. The book was a quick read (only 107 pages total), but the effects were lasting. I have only read In Cold Blood by Capote (and only read that this fall) and so I am not familiar with his writing style. He tells a good story, with plenty of detailed description, but the endings are not of the "warm fuzzy" holiday tradition. I am guessing that Truman Capote does not like the "happily ever after" endings because his personal life did not mimic a fairy tale story. Capote seems to want to tell a story of "real" life and real life cannot be summed up in a neat, tidy package. My first reaction was somewhat negative when I finished reading the book, but I have found myself pondering the stories over the course of the week, which probably attests to his gifted writing ability. If I were to rate the book, I think I would give it a 4 out of 5 stars and I do plan to read it again - just not during the holiday season when I like all my stories to have that "warm fuzzy" feeling.
The book that I have spent the most time reading this week is for my 8th grade English class - The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway. This is another one of the many classics that I had never read as a student and have wanted to read as an adult. As I read the book, and some of the commentaries, I have discovered that I need to keep my audience in mind -- 8th graders! There are so many layers of analysis for this very short novella, that I am sure graduate students could be kept busy for months discussing the potential meaning in every sentence. Suffice it to say, the 8th graders will certainly understand the book on the literal level - an old fisherman's fight with a worthy opponent; the endurance necessary to complete a task; and that success does not always mean material success but rather a job well done. I hope to bring out some of the allegorical elements of the story (Santiago is compared to Christ and Mandolin his disciple) in an effort to help students learn to recognize symbolism in writing. I think I will be doing well if I can accomplish this much in the 4 Wednesdays that I have to teach the book. I know that this will be one story that I can read and re-read and each time I will find something different, perhaps more profound, than the previous times.

This is a 3 day weekend for us, so tomorrow I plan to take my student bookclub to Lawrence (home of University of Kansas) to roam around the independent used bookstore, The Dusty Bookshelf. We went there last October and they had such a grand time that they have requested to go again - on a school holiday! It should be a fun time.

Today will be spent reading and analysing Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. I will be teaching this to my 7th grade class and while I am sure there are layers of meaning with this YA novel, I am hoping that it will not be quite as deep as my Hemingway experience yesterday.

May you all be warm and cozy in your Salons this Sunday!


  1. The outing with your student book club sounds wonderful.

  2. "I am still not confident enough in my writing/reviewing capabilities to post a full-scale review"

    Don't be silly.

    You don't need to post a full-scale review à la NYT, and there are remarkably few book bloggers who do such things. Just talk to us! Did you like it? Did you hate it? Is a character totally implausible? Do you wish you could be bff with one of the characters? Book blogging is not really about publishing professional reviews so much as it is about having conversations.

  3. I totally forgot that the kids didn't have school tomorrow. Ugh. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. I'm re-reading Wuthering Heights right now in honor of the Masterpiece production tonight. Love that book!

  5. I read Old Man and the Sea recently, too. It is amazing how such simple writing and a simple story has such complex layers.

  6. We have Walk Two Moons somewhere around here. I bought it about 2 years ago for my daughter when we were homeschooling... she never did get to it.

    Will be interested in hearing your thoughts about this book...

    You write lovely reviews. I enjoy them immensely Molly... don't doubt yourself.

  7. Hi Molly, You go for writing that full review soon - I'm sure you'll totally surprise yourself. I bet it's hard to let go of that English teacher mind. I'm not an English teacher by any stretch, but I've got a stomach full of pesky inner critics. I will definitely be back to your blog... I have two girls, 12 & 16. I've never read Wuthering Heights, but 12 yr. old just finished and am so glad to know about Masterpiece Theater production. It sounds like you are doing a great job teaching Hemmingway (I have a 7th grader who just did this book for her English class - definitely an interesting age to relate to, huh?)
    Truman Capote is actually one of my favorites... his language gives me chill bumps it's so beautiful, definitely not warm and fuzzy. It's weird though, I didn't like In Cold Blood, his best known work at all. Thanks for visiting me today. I look forward to getting to know you!

  8. Oh Molly--I feel so bad you had to read Old Man and the Sea!! ;) Thant is one book I never liked--being forced to read it in high school didn't help Hemmingway's case any either.

    Regarding reviews--if a full scale review is what you want to write, that is fine--but don't feel like you have to or that there are rules about this. If there are, I am in trouble as I am a terrible formal review writer. I just like to share my general thoughts and usually use an amazon description as I have a hard time being concise in plot description. (imagine that!)

    Hope you have a fun field trip--sounds like something I would like.


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