Started reading the kindle version of The Art of Racing in the Rain for no particular reason last night, although it has been a book I’ve been told I should read for several years. Finished 5% of the book before I got sleepy and turned out the light. So far, the dog is old and nearing the end of his life. His owner is now a single dad, and the dog has been with him since he first met his wife, had a daughter, and the wife passed away from illness. The man loves car racing, and the dog too now loves it, and reflects on the 1993 Grand Prix which was won in the rain, and how his owner is good at racing in the rain because the key is to forget the past and just race in the moment. We learn the dog may be nearing the end of his life, but looks forward to it because he doesnt’ want to be a burden to his owner plus knows from a documentary that after his dog life he will be a human, and can’t wait to be human with their amazing tongues, which allow them to chew their food and to form speech. To be continued…
With the world in general and the US in particular going somewhat crazy (something that started gradually decades ago and is accelerating now), I was curious about Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was written during troubled and racist times like these…
The seeds for the novel were planted during the 1830s and 1840s when she heard tales about slavery, then blossomed after the fugitive slave acts were passed in 1850. She based the novel on tales and a few writings by runaway slaves, and sold it as a serialized novel for $600 (not a tiny sum in 1850). It was a success, and published as a novel that was also a phenomenal and immediate success – in the North, the average person could picture slavery beyond the speeches, and in the South Stowe was called slanderous and a liar, but both northerners and southerners read her book, and it was published in virtually every language across the world. Like Common Sense in 1776, Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s influence in the right time and right place is hard to overstate. Stowe became a celebrity, and moved after The Civil War to Florida, where in her old age she likely suffered from Alzheimer’s before dying in 1895(?).
I’m very interested in reading this book! I’ve reserved the audiobook from the library. There are several people who’ve reserved the book before me (i.e. there is a wait list), which is wonderful!
When I was a high school teacher, I tried to lead by example. So, if my students were doing something, I did the same activity. For example, if my students were watching a movie, I watched the movie (even if I’d seen it 100 times before). If my students were working on a class project, I was working with them on the group project (by going group to group and sitting with each group). And if they had silent reading, I read a book too. Never ever did I grade papers or do prep for another class while class was in session (as my mentor teacher said, if I am telling the students something is important but then not doing it myself, I’m sending the wrong message – so i tried to model the same behavior, and I feel like it helped me build bonds with my students). But I am thinking of one time in particular during silent reading, when I was reading along with my students but the book I was reading was hilarious (it might have been Confederacy of Dunces) so I kept chuckling; I noticed (out of the corner of my eye, since a teacher always tries to keep the peripheral vision going for obvious reasons 🙂 ) the students exchanging smiles then one finally said, not unkindly, “We can’t concentrate because you are laughing.” Then the entire class laughed. I loved that moment. It was a tender moment and thinking of it makes me miss my students. Those students were 16 at the time, and would all be in their 30s today. Wild to think about. But that moment is frozen in time in my memory.
Reading Hershey, by D’Antonio, which is ultimately about the Hershey school but with substantial amounts dedicated to the Hershey History. Hershey was born to a dreamer, charistmatic and a bit of a snake-oil salesman father and a menninite mother (an odd combination). As a young boy, he went to work at a confectioner (candy shoppe) which were popular at the time, and with his mom’s intervention learned to be a candy maker. After four unsuccessful tries financed by his mom’s successful farmer family, he found success with a caramel formula he found in Denver then produced locally in Lancaster (PA). His mom and aunt’s presence were instrumental in his early successees, and he became quite weatlhy when a London importer stumbled upon his caramel and made bulk orders shortly before Hershey’s business went under. In other words, he was lucky although a hard worker. Eventually, he sold his caramel business for 1M to a competitor, and bought land in Derry’s Creek to construct a huge factory and town for his chocolates, which were still experimental, dominated by the Swiss (and Cadbury) but new to Americans. As his huge investment (1M) neared completion, his loyal worker perfected the recipe for milk choclate (earning a 100 USD bonus), and the factory (and town) became a monstrous success. He used some of this money to build a school for boys at a time when many orphanages were being built to serve the high numbers of poor orphans.
Hershey was lucky and had the support of his family, but also was a hard worker who was dedicated to his craft of making candy, and took a substantial risk in building the what would be the town of Hershey (200K of his 1M windfall was spent in acquiring the land alone, and several of his supports more or less called him crazy for taking on the risk).
This is a fascinating, well-researched, well-written/told story.
Standing here at the bus stop, beneath a hazy sunrise with literally a silver colored sky above me, I have a momentary understanding of why a poet might write poetry. I feel a rush looking at this, and a poet probably needs to channel that rush. Unfortunately, I am no poet (not really). In college, when I took a poetry writing course to improve my descriptive writing skills, I was obviously a hack when it comes to poetry 🙂
When I read autobiographies of people who have passed (e.g. Michael Crighton or EB Sledge), I am sometimes struck that it is like reading the thoughts of the dead. This morning while reading Travels on the bus, I was reading a paragraph where MIchael Crichton talks about his fear of falling off a cliff while hiking in Pakistan — he died years ago, yet here i am reading his thoughts about that experience. It is errie, beautiful and magical all in one. This is true of any autobiography, although it is challenging for me to read anything pre-20th century since the writing style is so much different (I like more of a crisp, journalistic style that came into vogue with Hemmingway — reading John Smith’s writings from the 16th century are tedious for me).
When I taught, I taught block periods, meaning I had kids for 90+ minutes at a time. I loved it, as it gave me a lot of time to build flow and to incorporate different things into a single class. Plus, it also gave a natural life-like flow to class versus a choppiness, and one of the great benefits to that is I got a chance ot know my classes and students better on a human level. Also, one of the things I learned the hard way was that every single day the lesson or class activity had to be interesting, *especially* in a block class, or I was screwed (teens forced to sit through a boring lesson for 90 minutes can do interesting things to keep themselves occupied, especially when a non-intimidating teacher like me is in front of the class 🙂 ). Anyway, one of things i loved was having an idea the night before, and incorporating it into the next day’s lesson. For example, in Stranger Things there were a lot of allusions to various 1980s films including ET. So what I might do if I were teaching English today was show 2 minutes of the bike scene from ET and then 2 minutes from the bike scene of STranger Things, then ask the students to compare the two. I would then explain that this was a type of allusion, that Stranger Things was alluding to (or pointing to or borrowing from) ET; there is a 10% chance a student would ask about allusion versus pirating, which could lead to interesting conversation and a secondary/smaller lesson. I always found that video – even just a 2 minute clip was a great way to teach the less tangible concepts in literature like symbolism, theme, allusion, etc. Inevitably when I did this there would be one or two C or D students who would say, “Oooohhhh.” Anyway, I always loved moments like that, where I could quickly illustrate something with an interesting or fresh medium in less than 10 minutes. I miss those moments 🙂
One of the most amazing books I’ve read was “The Trail Led North,” which I first heard about in The Seattle Times in their series of articles regarding the 1897 Alaska Gold Rush This book was dictated by an older man to his grown granddaughter in the 1940s, and it was about his journey to the Yukon to search for gold in the 1897. Not in a million years would I have heard his story, but it was interesting and I learned a lot of things. (Note: I think this is the book, although it has been 20 years and I got it for free from the library).
For example, he worked in a Portland timber mill when Portland was a young and small town, and at one point a man shot another man in cold-blood when the first man issued an insult to the man; the man went to trial for murder but the jury ruled that the killing was justified, since the man had it coming to him for issuing insults like that.
Later, he decides to try his luck in the gold fields, so has to purchase many many crates of supplies to house him while he was there, then took a steamer to Skagway. Along the way, a steamer ahead of them just sank and disappeared without a trace – all the riders were drowned and forgotten in time.
When he journeys to the fields, he relies a lot on pancakes, but can’t find the syrup, so has to eat his pancakes dry. He promises to exchange words with the shopkeeper when he returns home, but then later finds the syrup in another crate.
Finally, at the fields there are many people he meets (in fact, it seems quite crowded out there with people hoping to find their fortune). At one point they are crossing a frozen lake, and a man and his young son fall break through the ice and drown.
These are just some stories I remember off the top of my head outside of facts that I already know about the Yukon Gold Rush. It was a fascinating book, like having an old man tell you about his experiences of long forgotten days. How many books are out there like that? Of interesting stories told by forgotten people?
I’d like to — and plan to — invest some time in the coming months/years to read these kinds of stories. The first one – for the simple reason it is already on my kindle – is With the Old Breed, a book written by a World War II marine about his experiences in the Pacific. I believe this book was used to research for The Pacific, which is why it’s on my kindle, but still, a book written by someone I’ll never meet or hear of again about his personal experiences as an everyday person in The Pacific.
For most of my life, I was a *very* slow and highly-selective reader, but remembered everything I did read. I not only remembered nearly everything I read, but often could recall the page and location on the page of where I read something, plus the date and where I was when I read it. But there were two keys:
- I had to be interested in what I was reading. Luckily I was interested in many things, such as history, science, literature and human interest stories. But I wasn’t interested in anything technical or mechanical, biology, or my teachers’ odd obsession with Hinduism (it seemed like every year we studied Hinduism). Ironically, because I was a slow reader, I often did not read what I was assigned in school, but rather flipped around to read what I was interested in. For example, the class might be studying about President Taft but I would see a piece about Abraham Lincoln, so would read the Lincoln piece instead).
- It coudn’t be read to me. For whatever reason, I have a hard time comprehending something that someone reads to me unless they are a professional or trained reader. Story hour for me has always been hell. 🙂
I always loved reading comprehension tests – I was always the last person to finish but generally scored in the top percentile. I didn’t really have to try — it just happened. But…
Since coming off prednisone I am struggling to remember what I read, most astoundingly numbers and years, which I was especially good at before. I really have to work at it, and have to keep reminding myself of what I read. Honestly, it makes it challenging, and dips into how much I can learn, since I am always having to review what I re-read. Is this what it is like for the average student? If so, no wonder so many kids hate school 🙂
But I refuse to give up – one thing for sure is if I stop reading, it won’t get better — plus in some ways it is nice to keep reading about a topic I am interested in and always learning something new when doing so 🙂
At 48 years of age, finally read Of Mice and Men on the recommendation of daughter L. In short, loved it. Like so many of the classics, it made me think, and did it in less than 100 pages.
The book follows giant but simple Lenny and small but cynical George, two drifters who have signed on to work on a farm. We learn that Lenny is a good person but has a long history of hurting things, and there is foreshadowing by the way he inadvertantly kills mice, how the two men are on the run after Lennie inappropriate touched and scared a woman, and how George tells Lennie where they’ll meet if anything bad happens.
We gradually meet the work men on the farm, all down-and-out and flawed men (and the new bride) in the early 20th century who are essentially alone and scared in the world, and cautious with each other. GEorge more or less befriends one of the men, and they plan to buy a farm together, with the three men living and working on the land. We also get a taste of foreshadowing when a beloved dog who was once a great sheep herder (just like Lennie is a great farm worker) but now too old to be of use is shot in the back of the head.
Later, Lennie — like he has done before — inadvertently kills the young bride of the boss’s pugnacious son and flees into the hills. The three men’s dream of owning a farm is now over, and George concludes that Lennie will always be a risk to people of the world. George finds him in their previously agreed upon hiding spot, and shoots Lennie in the back of the head, like the old dog earlier in the story.
It is a heartbreaking story that seems to capture friendship, pity, loneliness and the life of a poor working class American 100+ years ago. It is a story worth reading.