9.20.2012

Read. Think. Learn.

Warning: Cliché ahead.

Where in tarnation did September go, eh?

I could blame the missing month on the fact that the Misses' swim team is now a USA Swimming club. The winter season began more than a month earlier than it once did, and their practice group meets five nights a week (late!) for nearly two hours.

I could blame the missing month on the schedule demands (practice and lessons) of two students who study two instruments each.

I could blame the missing month on an assortment of home projects, like washing every. single. screen. and. window.

I could blame the missing month on the Othello app. But I only installed that yesterday. Heh, heh, heh. (Speaking of apps, Girl Detective recommends this one. I installed that yesterday, too, and I agree with her: Squee!)

To be perfectly honest, though, neither swimming nor music are to blame. Nor are the screens and windows. Or the app. Quite simply, the demands of shepherding two capable students, one of whom is angling to graduate two years early, through high school leaves me little time to chronicle said days. Be clear: I have no complaints. I do, however, have a considerable amount of reading, grading, planning, and studying. Forget math, science, history, Spanish, logic and philosophy, writing and grammar. Consider literature alone. Our academic year began just seven weeks ago, and we've already studied:

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
Three Sisters (Anton Chekhov)
The Island of Dr. Moreau (H.G. Wells)
Hamlet (William Shakespeare)
Animal Farm (George Orwell)
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Tom Stoppard)

To say nothing of our work on Poetry 180 and the discussions and additional reading that evolve from that. 

(Aside: My AP English class didn't cover that much material in a year, let alone seven weeks. Sometimes I don't know whether to be more amazed by the students or by the efficiency of this method of studying and learning.)

Naturally, we don't simply read these works. In late August, we saw the Tracy Letts adaptation of Three Sisters at the Steppenwolf Theatre (reviews here and here) and are still  in search of a more traditional interpretation of that play. More recently, we saw a marvelous production of Hamlet at the Writers' Theatre. (Reviews here, here, and here. We loved it.) We saw the Branagh film and read and studied the play. (Resources included four related lectures from Peter Saccio's two Teaching Company courses.) Synchronicity/Serendipity/Synthesis led us to watch Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1990) before the performance, so the Misses arrived feeling well versed in "antic dispositions." Like me, they tend to have a deep appreciation for what we call the "Modern Wing of literature" (akin to the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago), so they really poured something of themselves into our oral interpretation of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

We couldn't watch, read, and study Ros & Guil without delving into Theater of the Absurd: We have the "Beckett on Film" production of Waiting for Godot slated for this weekend's family film night -- this in addition to the 1980 Hamlet featuring Derek Jacobi and Patrick Stewart as Hamlet and Claudius, respectively. (Why? Because Professor Saccio said so. He also insisted that we see the 1948 version with Laurence Olivier. And we will.) I was unable to secure a copy of the 1961 Waiting for Godot my son and I watched. Featuring Burgess Meredith and Zero Mostel as Vladimir and Estragon, respectively, it was simply perfect. Here's hoping the "Beckett on Film" production works (nearly) as well. (Aside: Having learned that Brian Dennehy, who I just saw in The Iceman Cometh at the Goodman Theatre (related entries here and here), is slated to appear in Waiting for Godot at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival next season (short announcement here), we think we may already know how the 2013 edition of "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" ends.) We'll read the play next week, but "for fun," we're also reading Watership Down (Richard Adams).

Looking ahead, in early October, we'll "kick it old school" by reading and studying Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and Electra, the latter of which because we have tickets to see Elektra at the Lyric Opera. Similarly, in advance of seeing Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses at the Lookingglass, we plan to read an adaptation of Ovid's Metamorphoses and/or selections from Charles Martin's translation (even though, yes, I know, Zimmerman used the David R. Slavitt).

We'll reread and re-watch Henry V in celebration of St. Crispin's Day and then it's on to It Can't Happen Here (Sinclair Lewis), a tie-in of sorts with Animal Farm and with our political philosophy / U.S. Constitution / presidential election unit in history; The Misanthrope (Molière), on which the Chicago Shakespeare Theater's The School for Lies is based; and The Murder of Roger Akroyd (Agatha Christie) -- just because.

Even if my students don't ever seem to require a reading break, I know I will, so I've decided that the month of December will be given over to The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien) in anticipation of the film (December 14).

Speaking of "in anticipation of the film," Mr. M-mv and I are looking forward to Les Miserables -- both the movie (December 25) and the upcoming production in Chicago. We already have tickets to the latter, so we will finally be able to introduce the Misses to our favorite musical. (No, I don't think we'll be reading the novel, not even the abridgement. Not this year, anyway.)

And speaking of musicals, we'll see Sunday in the Park with George at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater this fall, which we will, of course, complement with a trip to the Art Institute to see A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.

 But now I am beginning to stray from the original topic: literature.

And the month of September, nearly gone.

Enough about us, then. What are you reading, seeing, studying, doing?

6 comments:

Staci Thomas said...

You inspire me. Oh, to sit and have coffee with you so that I could pick your brain. I'm very grateful to at least read your blog.

Staci

Renee said...

So sad about your avoidance of Les Mis - to read, I mean. It might slow down the amount of books read, but it is an extraordinary book. I think your girls are mature enough to be able to enjoy it; I know you would. I highly recommend skimming the portions that don't have anything to do with the main story, like battle scenes outside of Paris. You might want to reconsider it. I am an avid reader and I read it in three or four weeks with life in between.

Carol in Oregon said...

This is a glorious post! It makes me miss the joys of learning with my kids.

I'm reading books about our digital culture and connectivity: Distracted, Alone Together, and Scrolling Forward.

I want to re-read The Hobbit and finally dive into Les Mis.

Before that I will be reading Moby Dick aloud with my husband. We are flying to SF to surprise my brother for his birthday. We will watch the premier of Moby Dick, the opera, and surprise him at the stage door. It's simply delicious!

Sherry said...

Les Miserables, both the book and the musical, are favorites of mine, and we have tickets! To the touring production that's coming to Houston in NOvember.

That said, Brown Bear Daughter who's going with me (or I'm going with her) tried to read the book earlier this month and got bogged down in the first chapter. She wanted to get past the Bishop and on to the "good parts." Anyway, I would love to re-read Les Miserables.

Kelly Sedinger said...

I took my family to that very production of Les Mis back in the spring, when it came to Buffalo. First time I've seen it, after knowing every note of music for years and years. I spent the first 45 minutes of it in tears, and I may be looking forward to the movie more than The Hobbit.

Girl Detective said...

This September does seem more intense than usual, I agree, though I'm certainly not moving at your intensity! In high school French, we read an excerpt of Les Mis, chapters, maybe?, called Les Chandeliers de L'Evecque (sp?); do your daughters read French?

I love the Sonic T-shirt on Miss ii; my 6 and 9yo boys are rabid fans of the comic series. True story, related by Comic Book Guy at our store: Sonic started as video game, got adapted into comic, video game went away but comic kept going strong for decades until video game was revived because of continued popularity. THAT is a character people love.

Here, in addition to reading Sonic comics, I just finished Sinclair Lewis' Main Street, which would have been wonderful even if I didn't live in MN, and am now re-reading Beloved, which now reads to me like Gothic Horror, and I think it's the Yin to McCarthy's The Road's Yang. My copy of Beloved is from '96, when I was still in my nascent stages of what you call auto-didacticism. I was claiming my book by marking it, in red pen, and I sometimes shake my head at what my '96 self commented in the margins. She was trying so hard to be a critical reader, and thought she was pretty clever. Reading my old notes reminds me of that Joan Didion quote we love, about not forgetting our 19yo selves lest they come knocking in the night. But I may need to get myself a new edition. Red pen; sheesh.

Happy reading and learning, friends!