Monthly Archives: November 2008

Literary Inspiration to Procreate — (Ladies?) & A Bookish Anecdote

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Here I am being somewhat lackadaisical at my post (I’d gather I’m leaning against a bookcase, absently watching another’s chess game) when a quirky thing named Sadie, who was adorable (she looked like you, Les! – what with wild hair [“If only we could get her to comb it,” her dad says], a gypsy-skirt, and a rub-on tiger tattoo) and she says, “Hi. I read at a YA Level and my dad is going to let me pick out a book.

Hmm. I scratch my chin and say, “Hmmmm. Well, what do you like?” Mystery, fantasy, and suchlike – she says. But she doesn’t like this, this, or this. So I say, “Honestly, you’ll love Clive Barker’s Abarat,” and that she’d grow-up to love his horror movies —

I can’t watch them at all! —

It doesn’t occur to me then that she’s only, ay, nine-or-so years old, so: “What?! You’re entirely too much in the wrong,” and I explain just why. At some point, she spaced out. Is such-and-such good, she asks; sure, but so is this – ad nauseum. It comes to that seven-and-twenty minutes after, we are still unsure (thus I unsuccessful) about her book-of-choice. I can help her with fantasy, but I know little mystery, and that just by rote. Eileen two-pennies me with Meg Cabot, “Let’s find her some little girl stuff.

Surely she wants something awesome, with loads of wry adventure!,” says I, and I again slip our copy of Abarat from its siblings, suggestively —
                                                                              and so she politely tells me, perplexed, how big of a help I was, and wanders off with authors I hadn’t pushed.  Aw.

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Oops!, a Tangent; & In Defense of Comics

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The editor of the Graphic Classroom [Chris Wilson] was invited to write a feature for 417 Magazine in defense of comics.

Many children and teens hate reading because they are taught early on to read only the literature that adults deem important, not necessarily what the child might deem interesting. Comic literature, as it turns out, is a very important bridge to helping children read traditional literature because of the duality of text and illustrations. Because the medium is met with skepticism from adults, children are left hiding their interest in reading, stuffing their comics inside other pieces of traditional literature, or hiding them under their beds. Worse yet, they abandon reading altogether, believing their interests are childish. To educate the love of reading out of children and teens is to repudiate our own educational goals.

And by teaching early-readers that their interests are childish broadens the gulf between the kid and parent, when his or her interests solely revolve around being with or in the adult’s favor, of being approved and accepted, and having a friend. So yesterday when a highschooler and his mom wandered into BCPL and asked, broadly, for “four books set in either England or France,” I inadvertently rattled off the Victorians, then heaped it on with the Romantics while this kid’s eyes glazed over. Ooops. He did not like to read, when he thought the abridged Picture of Dorian Gray was too long (“What!? You’re in trouble if you think that’s long”). And remember, this one was a highschooler, no early-reader; his mom made him check out Wilde, but I had to give him the Marvel Illustrated adaptation to make him at all eager to read it.

So – and this is a bit politically incorrect – but the students in Bradford County are, er, dumb. Yeah this is the result of NCLB and a high turn-around for teachers, the lack of funding, the consistent moral reproach from parents (parents don’t belong in the classroom [for the most part]), and so on. But summarily, these kids are dumb. I haven’t met a highschooler in the library who can spell worth a damn, and they come there to hop on the free internet. But, more than anything else, they gravitate to the graphic novel collection [put together by yours truly!] because of how readily accessible and entertaining the stories are. The themes and lessons are little different:

Like any literature, there are comics and graphic novels that directly and indirectly address important subjects and genres such as: the hero’s journey (monomyth), history, communication arts, civics, mathematics, biography, science, art, economics, sports, love, birth, death, divorce, kidnapping, war, discrimination and much more. The same literary devices and themes present in traditional literature are also represented in comic literature. The genre, despite current stereotypes to the contrary, consists of much more than superheroes, although some superhero stories, such as Spider-Man, can be very complex and profound. Most importantly, children, teens and adults are interested in reading comics.

Neil Gaiman & the Tyrannical Tambourine [jangle jangle]

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So, I thought this was silly. Neil Gaiman reads from Creepy Doll, then descends subsequently into tambourin[ical] tyranny (okay, so maybe it’s not all that tyrannical; the phrase, however, is alliterative [if nonsense]). Here he is on stage with Paul-and-Storm in Manchester and the Tyrannical Tambourine [jangle].

Dorian Gray, the Comic [?] & Jane Eyre, the Musical [!?]

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Inordinately and comically busy, what with the Library’s Great Pumpkin Escape, the Why Waste Good Technology on Science and Medicine? open-gaming event, and planning November 15ths O-GE in honor of the ALA’s first annual National Gaming Day. Oy.

I will be attending the Gainesville Community Playhouse presentation of Jane Eyre: The Musical (what!?) sometime in this next week, [even though it’s no secret that I harbor ill-designs for all of the Brontes]. It’s morbid curiosity, honestly. I want to hear a powerful rendition of Rochester!, Rochester!

My review of the Marvel Illustrated: The Picture of Dorian Gray appeared at The Graphic Classroom last week.

Here’s the thing: the adapted Dorian Gray is really remarkable, but having the real horror of Dorian’s world brought from a monochromatic page to striking visuals – pertaining to suicide and murder (and the disposal of the body) – makes it awful poignant. I’m all for relentless gore and I generally root for the bad guy, but there is a panel in which a man hangs himself simply because he once associated with Dorian Gray, and it caught me off guard. It’s not particularly artful and it’s not like he’s disemboweled, but it is pretty sad.

You can [and should!] read the full review here.

I vow to post here regularly this month. By all means, send me hate mail to keep me on track.