Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Monday, June 22, 2009

In defense of Holden Caulfield

John Green is annoyed by the recent NYTimes piece on how Holden Caulfield is irrelevant today, and he blogs about it.

(Has anyone else noticed that he's blogging more lately?)

(For the record, I mostly agree with Green, but I love the cover of Catcher that the Times used to illustrate their piece...)

Friday, June 19, 2009

you read it here first!

Nancy Pearl loves E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Of course she does! (I did, too. Last year.)

late to the party

I know Louis Menand's piece on the creative writing workshop (ostensibly a review of Mark McGurl's book, The Program Era, which sounds fascinating) has already been discussed all over the place. After all, it came out three weeks ago, and in internet time that's an eternity. But I am getting to my New Yorkers late, and I have a bizarre aversion to reading them online, so I just finished the piece this morning.

As someone who occasionally teaches a creative writing workshop (in nonfiction, I hasten to add!), I suppose I have a dog in the fight--though, as Menand presents it, in the end it's not much of a fight. Creative writing workshops are doing something, and they're not going away, so whether or not creative writing itself can be taught actually turns out to be sort of beside the point. But there's almost a throwaway line in his piece that I found very helpful, actually: "Creative-writing courses follow naturally from the 'learning by doing' theories of progressive education: they add practical, hands-on experience to traditional book learning" (109). I've been thinking a lot about progressive education lately, and this rings true to me. It also suggests that maybe in literature courses we ought to be making our students, say, write a sonnet or attempt some fiction. (I think this might be the Bennington approach--Terry?) It's an approach I have to admit I've resisted, because it's 1) not the way I was taught and 2) therefore would have me teaching something I'm not sure I know how to teach. Always a tricky thing.

But, as Menand's next-to-last paragraph reminds us, workshops can "teach [us] about the importance of making things, not just reading things"--and that is, I think, an increasingly valuable skilln(112). Matt Crawford might not think of fiction-making as the same kind of soulcraft that he identifies in manual labor, but there is a satisfaction to making, even making sentences and paragraphs, that I think it's important to acknowledge. And sometimes when students try to write something themselves, they gain an awareness of their reading as made object; they start to be able to look into the craft of it. And that, in turn, can improve their writing as they pay more attention to their own craft.

Sometimes in my children's lit class I've had students do a project taken from Molly Bang's Picture This! How Pictures Work, in which they have to make a picture that tells a story, using cut paper in only four colors. They laugh at themselves for enjoying such a kindergarten assignment so much, but it does give them some insight into what the illustrator's craft requires. I may have to revive that one, and maybe play around with some other hands-on assignments, this time through.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

time change

in case you were wondering, here's why the time stamp on my blog is currently set to Tehran time. Seemed like a fairly easy way to try to help out folks who are trying to get information out to the rest of the world about their predicament--I can only hope it helps.

Neglecting the blog, again

I've been writing elsewhere, though.

Here's my last column for Literary Mama.

And here's today's installment at the Mama, PhD blog at Inside Higher Ed.

Nick's last day of school is today--and I thought I'd post this picture here, since the tattoos are, yes, Dreamdark tattoos. Very cool. The whole concept was his idea; I was just his stylist. (The hair is a spray-on color that washes right out, unlike Mariah's pink hair...)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Is the Kindle elitist?

From the first time I saw a Kindle, I wanted one. It was an irrational desire, a visceral one. I couldn't explain it, though I tried to talk about saving my back (from the weight of all those books), more access, etc. Really it just looks like a cool piece of technology and sometimes Iwant them. But here's an interesting counter-perspective on the technology, from an interview with Sherman Alexie about his hatred of the Kindle:

Books saved my life, Edward. I rose out of poverty and incredible social dysfunction because of books. And all of my senses-sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste-come into play when I think and read about books. Books are tactile and eccentric. An eBook will always be a gorgeous but anonymous box. It will also be just a tool–perhaps an amazing and useful tool-but I don’t want it to replace the book. And I’m worried that many people don’t care about the book itself, and see the eBook as a replacement. And I’m worried that Amazon and other eBook distributors will completely replace bookstores. The careers of nearly every successful writer are based on the amazing human interaction between bookstore employees and readers.

read it all here

Why I Do Research

In the middle of writing a conference paper, it's helpful to stop and think about why I'm doing it.

Blog U.: Mothering at Mid-Career: Why I Do Research - Mama PhD - Inside Higher Ed

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