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It’s Almost Monday Again … Checking In

October 17, 2010

It’s mid-semester in the academic world, and I’m suffering some fatigue. And I’m not a student or professor. As I’ve mentioned before, my older daughter is auditing a university film class. I am grateful to the wonderful professor for giving her this opportunity. She’s discovered a new interest in old movies and participated in a lot of lively discussions. The thing is, I’m driving her there three times a week, and it’s at least a half hour each way. Plus we have various therapies, tutors, field trips, soccer, and so forth. Plus my writing students.

Some days I think it would be easier if each of my kids received an education in a government-funded building. But then I remember, “Oh yeah … we tried that. It’s a lot of hard work, too.” And we’d still have therapies, field trips, soccer …

By the way, I keep seeing mentions in the media of homeschooling going mainstream. Dang. I have never felt “in the mainstream” in my life — I’m fairly sure I’ve never even known where to find the stream. I guess I’ll have to work harder at being eccentric.

My reading has been scatter-shot. I tried to read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, recommended by Misfit Salon, but I couldn’t get into it, though I really liked the novel. It had me on “set in Barcelona,” and reading that it was a “novel for book lovers” sealed the deal. And the writing is beautiful. I just can’t concentrate on novels lately.

I’ve been reading some short stories, including a collection titled In the Bedroom by Andre Dubus, which I kind of fell in love with. I was fascinated with this author after seeing the movie In the Bedroom, directed by Todd Field.

I also started Ursula Le Guin’s The Birthday of the World and Other Stories, which I downloaded for the free version of Kindle I have on my laptop. This is the first thing I’ve read by Ursula LeGuin. In these stories, she showcases one of the things she is known for, using worlds she’s created, with different beings and customs that, at first glance, seem utterly foreign, to explore sexuality and gender.

The first story, for example, is titled “Coming of Age in Karhide.” It is set in the world Le Guin wrote about in the novel The Left Hand of Darkness which I started reading, but — you guessed it — I couldn’t concentrate on. In this world, everyone is both genders, fluctuating back and forth between male and female. It is those rare individuals who have only one gender, a fixed sexual orientation if you will, who are considered aberrant. And monogamy is definitely discouraged.

Because I have read little science fiction in my adult life, these stories fascinate me. I am thoroughly drawn in by the richness of the world Le Guin has created and by the way she explores gender and sexuality from different angles. She brings us in like anthropologists, observing how coming of age, relationships, sex, and procreation are handled in different worlds. In the process, she has us look at the mores of our own world from a detached, curious, and open-minded stance. Brilliant! I’m looking forward to reviewing this one.

I’ve also picked up a few YA novels, including Between Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters, which is about a boy struggling with the relationship problems between his two moms. So far, I am thoroughly enjoyed this, though it’s kind of heart-wrenching.

Speaking of YA novels, I failed to curb my impulse to download this one for the Kindle, after reading Robby’s review at Once Upon a Book Blog. Maybe if I get caught up on my work, I’ll start this today. I kind of want to see the movie, especially since I liked Emma Roberts in Lymelife, though it got a thumbs down from Robby and D.

And speaking of my crappy impulse control buying books, I just ordered two books I saw at Things Mean a Lot.

Private Peaceful isΒ  a YA novel about World War I. I really want to read it with my 12-year-old son, who’s interested in both world wars. An interest inspired by video games. Check out Ana’s concise review of this novel (click the link for Things Mean a Lot, above).

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the fact that I rarely read graphic novels, there was something about this I couldn’t resist. Part of it was Ana’s intriguing review. It was partly that it promises to be seriously weird. But a lot of it had to do with the sample drawings. The slightly Escher-esque quality of the one on the right really captivated me.

Here’s to another peripatetic week for the Head Kid-Chauffeur of the Monkey House and an interesting week of reading.

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28 Comments leave one →
  1. October 17, 2010 6:00 pm

    Don’t worry – you’re plenty eccentric – which is a marvelous thing!

    Hopefully you’ll give Shadow of the Wind another time and it will captivate you as it captivated me. Maybe it’s too mainstream πŸ™‚

  2. October 17, 2010 7:36 pm

    The Squirrel Machine looks very, very strange! I’d be interested in trying it, though I’d rather borrow than buy.

    Yeah, Between Mom & Jo is very, very heartwrenching…

    • October 17, 2010 7:40 pm

      It is heart-wrenching, but not devastating. Even though this family is very troubled, the kid DOES have two loving parents. I don’t feel despair for Nick, if you know what I mean.

  3. October 18, 2010 1:49 am

    It’s just crazy how much of “schooling” at home or not, is *driving* these days! I’ve been hitting the YA piles pretty hard lately, which is what happens when nothing else inspires me. I’ve made my way through some of the fallen angel/romance with mortal books, and yesterday read “Before I Fall” by Lauren Oliver which was sort of scifi-esque and which I not only really liked but thought it contained fabulous lessons for teens. Anyway, that pile is done now, so I guess I have to gravitate back to the adult piles! :–)

    • October 18, 2010 1:51 am

      I’m glad you’ve been finding some good YA lately — it’s one of my fallbacks too. I meant to read Before I Fall, bit I never got around to it.

  4. October 18, 2010 1:49 am

    I’ve had a hard time concentrating on longer novels, too…I blame it on the horror that was The Brothers Karamazov! Now I just want everything to be short and to the point.

    • October 18, 2010 1:51 am

      *LOL* Sounds like you’re suffering from some literary post-traumatic stress. πŸ™‚

  5. October 18, 2010 2:11 am

    If I had to drive an hour each way there is no way my daughter would be taking a class at college. I’m barely getting by on the seven minute trips to the local community college! πŸ˜€

    I’m glad you are reading Ursula K. LeGuin. She was one of my first and favorite authors. Loved the Earthsea Trilogy (well, it was a trilogy when I read it) and my children were charmed by her Catwings stories. I’ve also read many of her short stories. These days, I tend to have trouble with reading short story collections too. I think at this stage of my life, I’m so busy I need something that can drag me in and keep me in the story until the end of the book. When I try to read a collection and a story ends…well, my brain thinks the book is over and wants to move on. πŸ™‚

    Peace and Laughter!

    • October 18, 2010 2:15 am

      It’s actually a half hour each way. If it were an hour each way, I’m sure I wouldn’t be up for it! πŸ™‚

      I’d like to read the Earthsea Trilogy sometime; it sounds like a good one!

  6. October 18, 2010 3:11 am

    In the first chapter of It’s Kind of a Funny Story, the main character talks about bathrooms and says something like they are public places of peace. I got this picture in my head of little bubbles or still spots spread out throughout the world. It kind of stuck. Oddly, enough that was just when I was flipping through the book and I’ve yet to get back to it.

  7. October 18, 2010 3:21 am

    It sounds like short stories and graphic novels could quench your literary need while your focus is sporadic. Good choices. I am trying to think of some slimmer novels that might capture your attention without taking you too far away from time in the real world….The Diving Bell & The Butterfly (not a novel but a memoir packing a lot of punch in minimal pages) is one…oh, and The Housekeeper & The Professor is a very endearing tale with lots to think of in a short time – if you haven’t already read either of these, maybe they’ll bridge the gap back to longer reading.

    • October 18, 2010 4:08 am

      Thank you for the recommendations! I’ve heard terrific things about The Housekeeper and the Professor.

  8. October 18, 2010 4:11 am

    I’m really really behind in my google reader, but I think I really need to check out Ana’s latest posts! Have a great reading week.

  9. October 18, 2010 4:35 am

    The Left Hand Of Darkness sounds interesting! I have never heard of it before.

    • October 19, 2010 1:21 am

      It does sound interesting. My sister-in-law has been recommending it for years.

  10. October 18, 2010 3:43 pm

    I’m not familiar with these titles, but the covers caught my eye and they look really tempting.

    Here’s my Monday:

    http://laurelrainsnow.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/monday-memes-mailbox-and-what-are-you-reading-oct-18/

  11. October 18, 2010 5:32 pm

    I’m so excited that you’re reading Le Guin for the first time! She’s one of my very favourite authors. And I can’t wait to hear what you make of The Squirrel Machine. It really is one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever encountered. But it got me thinking, which is never a bad thing!

    • October 19, 2010 1:24 am

      Somehow, Ana, I had a feeling you’d be a huge fan of Ursula Le Guin. πŸ™‚ Such an amazing blend of fantasy and exploration of gender issues.

  12. October 18, 2010 11:12 pm

    Good luck with the mid-term craziness. It’s always a tough time to get anything done even if you’re not a student.

  13. October 20, 2010 8:23 pm

    I think people like the idea of homeschooling with all that is going on with the govt right now. We moved when our son was in 6th grade to get him to a better school system after our current school started taking away the programs that he was participating in. You have to be a special person to actually homeschool – you amaze me. I don’t think I could do it.

    Keep up the great work – I love reading along with your lessons.

  14. October 21, 2010 12:00 am

    Between Mom and Jo sounds really interesting, I’ll look for your review πŸ™‚

  15. October 22, 2010 3:01 pm

    I’m suffering severe fatigue as we go in to the second half of the semester! Hence my ridiculous absence from the blogosphere. Ah well, things will even out eventually. That is one great list of books up there.

    • October 22, 2010 3:26 pm

      I can imagine! I can’t imagine juggling teaching multiple college courses and being hit with midterms. Look forward to talking to you when you come up for air. πŸ™‚

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