Thursday, June 28, 2012

9/10 complete

Early this morning I finished reading the 9th book in my summer reading challenge, one book in the adult controversial category. Did I choose Shades of Grey by E.L. James? No. I actually chose a book that was controversial when it was published in 1899, The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I chose this book because I was intrigued by the type of writing that would be considered controversial at the end of the 19th Century.
The Awakening
by Kate Chopin
Last weekend my family attended a wonderful local production of the musical Ragtime, based on E.L. Doctrow's novel, published in 1975. I have not yet read the book, but it is on my book bucket list. My husband and I had seen the show before and truly loved the historical references and the manner in which the characters' lives cross paths. While reading The Awakening, I was reminded of the character, Mother, in Ragtime. The book opens with Edna Pontellier and her family as they vacation at the Grand Isle Resort  near the Gulf of Mexico. While  enjoying the area, Edna is befriended by the Robert, the resort's manager. There interactions and conversations lead Robert to feelings he should not have for a married woman. Upon realizing these feelings can never lead to anything good, Robert quickly leaves for Mexico. Once Robert leaves, Edna decides she no longer wants to follow in the normal society manner, but choose to lead her life in a manner that makes her happy and enjoy her life. Mother's metamorphosis in the musical, although not as dramatic as in The Awakening, can be compared to Edna's claim of independence and personal happiness when she refuses to stay at home to receive her callers and then moves out of her family home to live alone.

I wonder how Edna would feel in today's world? It seems the morals of today have become lax and extra-marital affairs are more common than not. Divorce and separations occur on a daily basis and more and more couples are living together before, and sometimes instead of choosing marriage. I don't approve of these loose morals for myself, but why should I tell someone how they can obtain and maintain their happiness. Would I make the same choices Edna made? I can't really answer that question. I am happily married, I know that, but I also know I have a great deal more opportunities afforded to me than Edna ever would have had in her lifetime.

As a woman in the year 2012, I have a very difficult time putting myself in Edna's place. I, like so many other women, take for granted my independence, my ability to make my own choice, go where I want to go and do what I want to do. Connecting Edna to Mother, I can see how their lives were really not their own, but revolved around their husband and children.  As a wife and mother I believe my family is very important, but I also know that in order to have a happy family I have to be happy as well. I don't feel my family is neglected in any way because I choose to work outside the home, go to a movie with my girl friends, or even blog after reading a great book. In the 21st Century, we may not be a traditional family in the sense of these characters from long ago, but I believe we are happier because we can develop our own personalities and actually be more well rounded as individuals who make up a family.

My final thoughts are of gratitude for living in a time when I have the ability to make personal choices and not be condemned by society for being myself.

Nora Ephron

 This morning I was listening to the news and I heard this quote from Nora Ephron....(post from

Nora Ephron

5/19/1941 - 6/21/2012

author, blogger, director, filmmaker, journalist,
novelist, playwright, screenwriter
“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.” 
― Nora EphronI Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

...and I could not agree more. Her words moved me and that is what reading, and actually writing, are all about. I don't know a better way to explain to someone how important reading is in my life. I have never been much of a writer, but over the past few years I have forced myself to become a writer through my blogging. By writing about the books I read I not only validate the author's word, but also the time I have invested in reading those words. I can put into words my own thoughts on the characters, plot twists, setting, etc. Through reading I have become a writer. I know I am not going to win any prizes for my writing and in all truthfulness I do it more for myself than anyone else. Reading is my therapy and writing is kind of like my receipt for services rendered.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Non-Fiction Section...Complete!

by Stephen King
Pennywise the Dancing Clown
It didn't really take me almost two weeks to complete this portion of the challenge. I have actually been reading in other categories as well. I just choose to post once I have completed a section of the challenge. So today I am posting about the non-fiction titles I have read. Now, if you have read some of my previous posts (July 14, 2011 or April 27, 2001) you will find that I enjoy reading about circuses. I hate clowns, let me repeat that, I HATE clowns, they scare the dickens out of me (thanks to Mr. Stephen King and his wonderfully descriptive character Pennywise the Dancing Clown in my favorite of his novels, It!). I almost didn't add a picture of Pennywise because he creeps me out so, but then I thought you might have to go look for a picture of him to completely understand from where I am coming, so I did it for you! Be thankful, now I will be up all night because of this!

Anyway, I digress, I don't really know from where my love of circuses comes. I remember going to the circus a few times when I was growing up and then again when my son was small, but something about the life of the circus performer has always seemed to fascinate me. As I was browsing the shelves of the Mary Couts Burnett Library on the campus of Texas Christian University recently I came across a few circus books that intrigued me. I browsed through a few of the books on P.T Barnum, sideshow acts and trapeze artists, but settled down to read in their entirety Tom Thumb: The Remarkable True Story of a Man in Miniature and The Great Circus Train Wreck of 1918: the Tragedy Along the Indiana Lakeshore. Tom Thumb has always been a fascinating character to me. This book told the story of Charles Sherwood Stratton, who would come to be known around the world as General Tom Thumb because of his partnership with P.T. Barnum.

To be honest, I had never heard of the train wreck of 1918 and was interested in this story because it happened around the time my grandfather was born. In 1972 Warren Reeder wrote about the devastating train wreck under the title No Performances Today. Upon great requests for the original title, the local history librarian at Hammond Historical Society decided to write a new account of the devastation using newly discovered materials. The book was an easy one day read with a great deal of information (including photographs of the wreckage) about the unusual circumstances that combined to cause one of the largest circus train wrecks in history.

The Great Circus Train Wreck of 1918:
Tragedy Along the Indiana Lakeshore
by Richard M. Lytle

Other Goose: Re-Nurseried!! and
Re-Rhymed!! Childrens Classics
by J. Otto Seibold
The last book in this portion of the reading challenge has nothing to do with the circus. I have actually had this book on my shelf to read for sometime because it relates to the lessons I did with my students this past year in the library. I found my students were not familiar with nursery rhymes. So I spent half of the school year teaching my students a variety of the classic children's nursery rhymes including some of my personal favorites : Jack and Jill, Little Miss Muffet, and Jack Be Nimble. Since the other two books I read for this challenge were adult books, I felt it was only appropriate for my position as a children's librarian to include a children's non-fiction title and J. Otto Seibold presents Other Goose Re-nurseried!! and Re-rhymed!! Childrens Classics seemed to fit the bill perfectly (okay, laugh at my little joke please...I hope I don't have to explain it!).
Poster issued by Chronicle Books for
promotional purposes
At first this book kind of turned me off because I so love the original nursery rhymes, but as I got further into the book I found I was intrigued by the re-rhyming of these classics. I have enjoyed sharing other books by J. Otto Seibold with my students and their families, including Olive the Other Reindeer and Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf to name a few, but I was reluctant to share this book because so many of my students did not know the original rhymes. I believe the children would love this collection of re-nurseried re-rhymes once they had been introduced to the originals. I would not want the students to believe these were the rhymes of old, but enjoy them for the hilarity of the new. We know Seibold is extremely creative, which is evident from the title of this book, but I was especially intrigued by the manner in which he presents "The Grand Finale" as a collection of all of the character previously introduced in a wonderful version of "One, Two Buckle My Shoe". I truly believe this is the best part of the entire book!