Sunday, March 30, 2014

Re Reading, Good Television and Social Justice

Some stuff I learned this week from reading.

1. I learned that I can read a book more than once and like it even better the second time. I re read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon which is translated from Spanish.  "Gabriel García Márquez meets Umberto Eco meets Jorge Luis Borges for a sprawling magic show." --The New York Times Book Review

I bought this book in 2011 on a recommendation from my sister who has read it three times! I suggested it for our Thursday book club and it was put on the list for this March. I knew I had to give it another look as I read it three years ago. I started to peruse it and found myself needing to read more slowly and carefully if I really was going to be able to follow the plot. Next thing I know I am hooked again. I read every word remembering bits as I went but taking time to stop and marvel at how this author was able to weave so many characters together into a mystery and love story combined. I would like to continue to reread books if I can fit them into all the new ones I want to read!

This experience also jogged my memory about a book that was written by Aidan Chambers called Tell me Children Reading and Talk.

Aidan had visited my classroom before this book was published. On page 73 he writes under the heading Rereading: "One Canadian teacher I know, Mary Mesheau, has a legend pinned over the board about how reading a book for the first time is like making a new friend and rereading is like returning to an old one."  It seems as if it may be time for me to pin that legend back up over my own bookshelves. 

2. I want to say I learned something from this next book but what I actually have done is found someone who reads for a living yet has something good to say about television. As you know I do have my favourite programmes and tend to watch whole series. I have also found that some people dismiss this pastime as lazy and rather wasteful. So when I found the following passage in Wendy Lesser's book Why I Read, The Serious Pleasure of Books I felt vindicated. She was writing about how we can feel a real sense of loss when we finish reading a book, wishing for the story to keep going. She then goes on to say this about television, and I quote from page 36:

One can derive this sense of longing from narrative artworks that are not literature. I felt something very much like it after I finished watching the television series The Wire. I also felt it at the end of The Best of Youth, the six hour Italian movie that first showed on television. Very few standard length movies are capable of creating this sensation of loss; it requires the Wagnerian length and the Dickensian intimacy of television, I think. And most television is not good enough to accomplish it. But when it does happen, as in these two cases. you get something that has a kind of literary profundity." 

Thank You Wendy.

I am including this critic's review of Wendy's book so you won't think I used someone who only watches television to support my binge watching. 
“Wendy Lesser’s extraordinary alertness, intelligence, and curiosity have made her one of America’s most significant cultural critics,” writes Stephen Greenblatt. In Why I Read, Lesser draws on a lifetime of pleasure reading and decades of editing one of the most distinguished literary magazines in the country, The Threepenny Review, to describe her love of literature. As Lesser writes in her prologue, “Reading can result in boredom or transcendence, rage or enthusiasm, depression or hilarity, empathy or contempt, depending on who you are and what the book is and how your life is shaping up at the moment you encounter it.”

3. I learned that for all our Canadian smugness about our social programs, health care and recognition of the rights of the LGBT communities I see a lot of  "coming out" on US television. We hear a lot about the opposition to gay rights in the US on our news channels. But I saw my first male to male kiss on US television and have seen many more episodes where either gender has sexual relationships much like heterosexual couples on television. For example, Six Feet Under, Scandal, Modern Family and Chicago Fire to name but a few. These relationships are portrayed as heterosexual relationships have been with their ups and downs and humour. These stories told in pictures do more to bring these relationships into our homes than any legislation can. I applaud the television writers, producers and the advertisers who include these people's stories in their shows. And I applaud the actors who take on these roles straight or gay. 
I pulled a few pages from my Vanity Fair magazine for March as I do if they are ads that make the magazine flop open. I do find this irritating and will pull most of these out of the magazine before I sit down to read it. I had a second look at the insert placed by Barneys New York. It stated that Barneys was proud to support the National Center for Transgender Equality and the LGBT community center in New York City with this campaign. I have included a few of the photos from this insert.

We may actually be becoming a kinder, gentler race of people after all.

It's been a good week.


  1. Love this Mary! Now if we can just deal with global warming... big report due tomorrow and it ain't looking good...

    Love that your student remembered this quote! How awesome is that????????

    I actually have the Zafon book on the shelf! Adding it to the to-read pile!

  2. Aidan wasn't a student of mine. He was a literacy guru from England the Department brought to my classroom and he wrote this in his book after!

  3. I am so impressed by your connection to Aidan! Have you watched The Wire? I went to a reading/interview in Toronto with the author Lorrie Moore (whom I had never heard of before) and she also referenced The Wire. She has actually written about it in The New Yorker. I feel like I am not totally getting it about The Wire.