It's stocked with Clowes, DuMaurier, and Gurley Brown.
Literature Lovers Take Heart!
Having a passion for promoting the benefits of literary reading through the Google Lit Trips Project has taken me on a wild ride. Full of obvious rewards in having been so well-received, but also on a journey that occasionally, well, perhaps too often has me wondering whether or not I'm channeling Don Quixote's notorious windmill tilting.
At times it seems as though Literary Reading itself is channeling Rodney Dangerfield's catchphrase, "I don't get no respect." I loved Rodney Dangerfield. But his humor relied upon his inability to perceive that his stage persona of ultimate boorishness was the very reason why he didn't "get no respect." And, therfore his absolute obliviousness at the cause of his complaint left plenty of room for hilarity at his scathing "negative example" of behaviors and attitudes actually unworthy of much respect at all.
But, evidence of literary reading's loss of position at the forefront of wisdom, worthy of much respect, appearing to be quickly rivaling Dangerfield's lack of respect, is disconcerting.Stories of
bookstores closing (http://keysnews.com/node/33403)
teens not reading (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gokm9RUr4ME), school's reducing curricular attention to literary reading (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/10/common-core-nonfiction-reading-standards_n_2271229.html) can challenge the energies and passions of those who still firmly believe that literary reading has significant value to 21st century global citizens.
But, one's optimism must be measured by the motivations it engenders when the challenges to maintaining optimism are high. Panglossian optimism is not productive as it merely rationalizes the status quo.
It is the optimism of Martin Luther King and of Mother Teresa where tremendous challenge is the very source of optimistic effort that is called for because the power of their hearts to take on the difficult challengs is the key to how we respond to the alarming trends. The question "What is happening to literary reading?" is worthy of consideration, but an even more important question perhaps is what can those of us who "carry the torch" of enlightenment through literary reading DO?"
And, I'd suggest that given much of the evidence, the answer is NOT just keep on plugging along hoping, like the foolish animals in Animal Farm that maybe someday things might get better. It's not a popular interpretation, but am I the only one who does not see the animals as victims of the evil pigs, but rather as representations of the various brands of behaviors that are responsible for enabling the pigs' successful greed grab?
So why did I begin these remarks with, "Literature Lovers Take Heart!"?
Because I watched the Golden Globes last night.
Two efforts essentially swept the awards. One, "Les Miserable" and the other, a previously under my radar HBO series entitled "Girls." The first of course is on every "great literature" list. Those familiar with the story, whether or not it was due to a textual or visual source, know the story's greatness and one would assume the movie's appeal, is based strongly in it's successful "selling" of some of the greatest themes of the best storytelling. It makes swallowing the bitter pill of the human condition palatable in a way that allows us to face a bitter truth by running that truth through our hearts and our minds. I suppose the same data could have been collected in a spreadsheet of wealth distribution and cost analysis for addressing social need, but there's something about spreadsheets and cost analysis reports that just miss our hearts making them much easier to ignore or to pretend we're not ignoring.
It's THE STORY told in such a compelling way that we not only continue to read (or watch) but if we have hearts, they are touched and we care.
I know the film was film and not the original text. But, nevertheless I find encouragement in a massive popular response to the powerful nature of the blending of TRUTH and great storytelling.
It can not be denied that the great literatures can be pretty challenging to educator devotees of Vygotsky, trying to figure out ways to bring distant times, cultures, and often difficult to fathom eloquent language into their students' various zones of proximal development. And that is why I believe that it is the time for those of us with the passion for literary reading to pause and consider whether there are still personal teaching strategies that can be improved even to our favorite lessons so that we are constantly attempting to bring "great teaching" to "great storytelling."
I'd like to add one section to the typical "lesson plan" asking me to identify how today's lesson will address not only the standards, the vocabulary, the literary devices, etc., but also the question, "How will today's lesson reach my students' hearts." Because, that's really why we all became avid readers, so much so that we even majored in English. The first reason we become readers is because the stories reach us where we are and the best stories take us to places we'd not realized we might care about. And, there is a joy in discovering new truths about things we care about.
So, what about that other big winner, HBO's "Girls"? Yeah, well, we don't have HBO in our house, but I'm an avid PBS Radio-junky where yesterday, in a story inspired by the Golden Globes buzz, I heard a glowing report on this series created by and starring Lena Dunham. Discovering bits and pieces of intriguing information about the storylines dealing with "real and meaningful" life experiences of the young female lead Dunham portrays.
And this morning I came across this brief article on Lena Dunham's contribution to "My Ideal Bookshelf."
(DOUBLE CLICK the GRAPHIC in the linked story to see Lena Dunham's contribution).
And, I was proud to see that a popular 20-something, with a love of literature has found a way to take that appreciation to a young audience who may just be inspired enough to follow her admirable lead.
So... last night's attention to really good storytelling and its attractiveness to very large audiences was heartening. And, truthfully, these two winners were only two among many nominees whose love of a good story well-told were in well-deserved competition for various awards of recognition.
We who are passionate about literary reading do have an ace in the hole. We need only be diligent about refining the means by which we
"sell our product's attractiveness to the consumer."
"because literary reading brings much needed wisdom to the information age"