Saturday, July 05, 2008

Reading, Watching, Listening .... June in Review

What I Was Reading in June
Is it Done Yet? Teaching the Art of Revision by Barry Gilmore
Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
Tracks by Louise Erdrich
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park
The New Frontier Vlme. 2 by Darwyn Cooke
Gibson Girls and Suffragists by Catherine Gourley
Click by Linda Sue Park, Nick Hornby, and more.

I started reading Gilmore's book on writing at a time when our district was having English meetings and trying to talk about a scope and sequence for teaching grammar and writing. This book addresses how to teach students revision beginning with content: improving a thesis, revising introductions, improving organization, incorporating evidence, revising conclusions etc. That's just part of the book. Many of his ideas made a lot of sense. Sadly some of his student examples that were his "bad" examples were better than I think I could write. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but if my students were writing that well, I'd hardly be complaining. Gilmore teaches AP students and this is very much a college prep level book. I am dealing with students working at a much lower level, yet, I think I could still, should still be trying to use some of these approaches and maybe I'd start to see some improvement. I would just need to find appropriate models that wouldn't leave the students overwhelmed.

So, my assessment of this book is that it's worthwhile if you are truly wanting to revise your approach to writing and revision in the classroom. It's best if you teach high school and even better if you teach AP or honors or freshmen in college. It is a little pie in the sky in some ways, but in others it's just humbling and I realize I'm not doing enough to support my students in their efforts at revision

I love Jeeves and Wooster. If you are in need of a jolly diversion. Bertie Wooster is sure to provide it as he and his friends are forever getting themselves into some sort of fix, which leaves Jeeves to masterfully extract them. And he does, every time. The stories are funny and endearing. Wodehouse really hit the spot.

The Great Gatsby is one of my favorites and one I've read many, many times. As I read The Double Bind, I doubt there was an allusion I missed, which added to the experience. I always enjoy books that reward the reader by using allusion to add to the layers of meaning. Recently, I've enjoyed the Jasper Fforde books that are overloaded with allusion but in a much more playful, comic way. This novel was of a different tone. For the first third of the book, I felt it moved slowly. I was intrigued by the photos left behind by Bobbie Crocker, a homeless man, known to Laura Estabrook through the shelter where she worked. Her search to uncover the mystery of the photos and connection to Bobbie and his past is what kept me hooked. The last third of the book had me hooked and I was unable to put it down. The ending was intriguing and made me wish I'd read this with my book club so we could discuss it.

For a few years now I've heard my friend Judy say of Tracks, "that's my favorite Erdrich book" and now I think I understand why. It was wonderfully written, poetic and haunting. She's a little Toni Morrison-eque, only of the Native American world. I've heard her read and met her briefly back on the Turtle Mountain Indian reservation where she has familial ties. Even that binds me to this amazing author a bit more. I loved, loved, loved The Master Butcher's Singing Club and now I am convinced I need to start working my way through the rest of her books. I like the families, the mystical, the heritage, and just the way the author strings words together. I would recommend this book. It does, however, have two voices telling the story and I know from book club experience that not everyone enjoys that. I will admit I preferred Nanapush's voice to Pauline's; yet, I didn't mind the shifting narrator.

I'd read the book Curious Incident of a Dog in Night Time by Haddon and enjoyed it. A Spot of Bother is nothing like that one. It's not that I didn't like this one, it just wasn't quite what I was expecting. I found it to be disturbing and even a bit depressing. Of course it was about a man's struggle with depression, so perhaps that makes sense. On the other hand, I love the cover art. Perhaps that is worth something?

I'd read A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park and enjoyed it. She writes historical fiction set in Korea for a juvenile audience. The Kite Fighters is a story about family, respect, determination, and kite fighting in Korea. I'd read The Kite Runner set in Afghanistan and didn't realize that this sport took place in so many different countries. I would recommend this for an elementary school student. For me, it read almost like a long short story, as I was able to read it in one sitting.

Gibson Girls and Suffragists is volume one in a set of encyclopedia like books aimed a younger reader. Yet, it was just right for me and my mood lately. Did you know that before 1915 American women did not shave their armpits? Just an interesting little tidbit I learned. I now want to read the rest of the series.

For the superhero lover the Darwyn Cooke graphic novels are a real treat. I enjoyed them.

I chose Click because I saw it advertised in relation to Linda Sue Park whose books I've enjoyed. At first I thought it was a collection of short stories by her and then I realized it is a collaborative novel by many of my favorite authors... 10 stories, all related via a photographer named George Keane and his family and his photos. It's a clever book and artfully done. And the proceeds go to Amnesty International. So not only did I enjoy reading it, but it was like donating to charity.

The book was particularly meaningful to me because I bought it the day I attended the memorial service for my Great Uncle, an amateur photographer who left his mark on many lives. And this story is about the legacy of a grandfather and photographer. It just seemed to good to pass up. I was not disappointed. It's aimed at a young reader crowd but it was a nice story for any age.

What I was Watching in June
The Bachelorette
Get Shorty

Since there is quite literally nothing on TV lately, I've been particularly happy about Monday nights and the Bachelorette. Of course I've blogged about that too.

Friends Seasons 2, 4, 7
In my fit of organization earlier this month, my "friends" kept me company. It was flinging flanging great.


No Reservations
Mad Money
10,000 BC
Justice League The New Frontier
Bee Movie
Grace is Gone
The Savages
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Of all these films only two were really worth the time. The Jesse James film was terrific, even though it was pretty long. I thought that Casey Affleck was really good and probably worthy of an Oscar for that performance. This was his year. First Gone, Baby, Gone and now this. He rocks. Persepolis was the other film. Sure it's animated but it's subject matter wasn't aimed at kids. I'd read the graphic novels and liked them and I was rather impressed with the way they transformed them into this film. It's a look at the life of Marjane Satrapi in Iran and Vienna from the 1970s to the 1990s. Oh, and it's in French.

Bee Movie was disappointing and not engaging. I thought The Justice League surpassed that one. It's the film version of the graphic novels I read by Darwyn Cooke.

Grace is Gone is a John Cusack film that was just too depressing for words. I love him, but it wasn't my favorite. The Savages was unfun as well. Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman were good in it, but I didn't love the story or much about it.

No Reservations was better than Mad Money. Maybe I just liked romantic comedies better? I really couldn't recommend Mad Money to anyone. 10,000 BC seemed just like Apocalypto. The characters were interesting and the scenery cool, but I didn't really enjoy this one either.

In Theatres
Get Smart
What Happens in Vegas
Sex and the City

For folks who loved the TV show, I think Sex and the City served as one more final episode. It wasn't fantastic but it wasn't as bad as some suggested it would be. I wasn't crazy about how it turned out for Samantha and I was frustrated beyond belief by Miranda. Of course that was how I felt during most episodes too.

Get Smart was good fun. I loved the old TV program and I thought Steve Carell was a good Maxwell Smart. 99 wasn't quite how I expected her, but the film works well on its own, if not by comparison.

What Happens in Vegas was better than I expected. I saw it for my sister's birthday and it was probably something I'd have waited to rent. I might recommend that route, but it's worth a rent for sure. If you like the romantic comedy...

What I Was Listening to in June

Bringing it All Back Home
by Bob Dylan
Rum, Sodomy, and The Lash by The Pogues

a random sampling from my MP3 player here are my posted shuffles:

June 1, 2008

You Don't Know What Love Is by The White Stripes
Dollar Dress by Waco Brothers
I Turned Out a Punk by Big Audio Dynamite
Hurts So Good by John Mellencamp
Shake Your Hips by The Rolling Stones

June 16

Single of Drop of Honey by Abigail Washburn
He Will Break Your Heart by The Righteous Brothers
I Only Want to Be With You by Dusty Springfield
In the Midnight by Langhorne Slim
What About Love by Toronto

June 26

Diggin' Me by Martin Sexton
Better Not Look Down by B.B. King
Hey Love by Stevie Wonder
Laugh, I Nearly Died by The Rolling Stones
The Animal Song by Savage Garden

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