Friday, August 28, 2009


So, there's a kid in my English class that tries to test the boundaries of religious persecution by saying things like, "Jesus is a fictional hero just like Beowulf". Also, he pokes fun of Jesus when he can--in drawings and snide remarks, you know, the regular everyday rebellious teen who tries to rock the boat.

Today I finally said, "_________, you know that the students around you have all come to terms with the idea that religion might be a social construct. Some decided it is and some have not. Either way, you're disrespectful remarks are not going to change their minds." I then assured the class that I had religion and was in fact LDS. The kid then nodded, kind of knowingly. And 2 seconds later, another kid said, "I've never thought of religion as a social construct, but now I am."

I. am. so. stupid.

Why didn't I just give the regular "respect thy neighbor" speech? Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Riveting Reads: The 13th Tale

I came upon Diane Setterfield’s novel by accident. A happy accident. The book stood on a shelf with a dozen others like it, upright, tall, and looking important in its regal book jacket. As I turned it over in my hands, the front cover photo sparked my intrigue. There was picture of a stack of very old books, and centered was the title in a kind of enchanting gothic font: The Thirteenth Tale.
Thirteen tales? I thought. Why thirteen? Why not twelve or fourteen? Was it the superstition behind the number thirteen that Setterfield meant to harness? Captured by curiosity, I flipped to the prologue and read, “All children mythologize their birth. It is a universal trait. You want to know someone? Heart, mind and soul? Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won’t be the truth; it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story.” Of course, I immediately thought of my own birth-story. (I almost popped out early on route to a hospital in rural Missouri). Then, I immediately wondered what the devil that tells about me. I’m overly punctual? Hardly. In any case, I was hooked. I had to know what the deal was with the thirteen tales.
Meet Vida Winter. One of the world’s greatest living writers. As her career builds, so does her status, and public interest piques. But to interviewers Winter holds out, telling lies when truth is requested. She mythologizes her own story again and again. Why? To divert reporters from the truth, something decidedly more chilling than any of her tales. When Winter finally chooses to tell all, she picks Margaret Lea as her scribe.
Lea is a quiet biographer with a simple life and few regrets. When she receives the entreating letter from Winter, Lea goes to the elusive novelist and begins piecing together the tale of the century.
Winter’s story begins with Charlie and Isabelle Angelfield and their twin girls; the mercilessly violent and hot-tempered Adeline and the submissive, flaccid Emmeline. Living in their own world with their own language and lack of rules, the twins terrorize their governess, the gardener, their House of Usher-type manor, and much of the town. Aside from dealing with their feral twins, the Angelfields must also juggle a ghost, mental insanity, and a devastating house fire.
A skeptic by habit, Lea wonders at the validity of Winter’s story and her bizarre connection with the Angelfield family, for some parts seem too gothic, too supernatural for truth. Truth or not, Winter’s final version of her beginnings—with its unnerving twists and turns—trumps all of the other bestselling ones.
Reader to reader, Setterfield ranks brilliant in my eyes. Not only are her characters as tangible as my next-door neighbors, but her constant, wide-ranged references to other novels are unprecedented. If the classics were a religion, Setterfield would be its Pope. If you like mystery, unexpected endings, and/or classic literature, then you’ll love The Thirteenth Tale.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Riveting Reads: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I confess.
I picked The Graveyard Book because of the author: Neil Gaiman.
Yep. The wild-haired British literary miscreant does it for me. I’ve been a Neil Gaiman fan ever since I was a kid and discovered my brother’s stash of Sandman graphic novels—all written by Gaiman. After I exhausted the pile, I was fortunate enough to continue my addiction, because Gaiman began writing novels. I breezed through them as they came across his shelf in the bookstores. I read Neverwhere, American Gods, Stardust, and Anansi Boys, each time feeding off Gaiman’s Poesque wit and imagery. There is something mysterious and realistic about Gaiman’s contemporary gothic novels. And then he started writing children’s literature, and I was in hog heaven. As an English teacher, I’m always looking for adolescent literature to introduce to my students. Coraline was a hit with the kids (and now is a major motion picture), and although it was targeted more a much younger demographic, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish also attracted a few fans in my classes. This leads me to his latest accomplishment: The Graveyard Book.
The setting of The Graveyard Book is—surprise, surprise—a graveyard. The character: Nobody Owens, or Bod to his companions. After the brutal murder of his parents by the man Jack, the toddling Bod wanders out of his house and into the depths of nearby graveyard. The residents of the ancient graveyard take him under their wisps and raise him as a live boy, yet teach him a few ethereal tricks to keep him safe from harm. Bod’s foster family educates him as a regal vampire serves as his guardian. Among these creatures, Bod also encounters a witch, werewolf, Indigo Man, and the gateway to a ghoul city. But these are just the everyday dangers of his home. Outside the boundaries of the graveyard walks the man Jack, who has unfinished business with Bod.
The Graveyard Book is Gaiman to the core, and now in a nice children’s literature package. It’s the perfect melding of the supernaturally grotesque and naturally grotesque with Gaiman at the reins. And if my word isn’t enough to sell you, the whole world seems to be on board with me (including Tori Amos, but probably because she’s dear friend of Neil’s.) Not only is The Graveyard Book internationally bestselling, but it also won the prestigious and coveted Newberry Metal. Gaiman’s got talent, no doubt about it. Get a copy of The Graveyard Book, fall in love with the wordsmith, then exhaust the rest of his collection like I did. Your mind’s eye will thank you.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Featured Post

My bestie, Julie Andrews, and how I vet her dates

I did a thing. And it accidentally went viral. In 48 hrs. it had 1.1K shares. The latest count is 1.8K in under 72 hrs. [Update: 2.5K sha...