Reading life review: September

Number of books read in September: 8
Number of books read in 2012: 100
Complete list here.

Our literature studies were the subject of a recent post, so this wrap-up may seem a little thin.

Hamlet (William Shakespeare) Play. With the Misses.

UnWholly (Neal Shusterman) YA fiction. A capable sequel to the disturbing Unwind.

Animal Farm (George Orwell) Fiction. With the Misses, who remembered hearing Mr. M-mv and I discussing this family book club selection with our son about eight years ago and arrived at the table with much to say about this "fairy story."

Hamlet: Poem Unlimited (Harold Bloom) Non-fiction. Reread to complement Hamlet studies.

Are You Liberal? Conservative? Or Confused? (Richard J. Maybury) Non-fiction. With the Misses.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Tom Stoppard) Play. A re-read, this time with the Misses.

Waiting for Godot (Samuel Beckett) Play. A re-read, this time with the Misses.

No Exit (Jean-Paul Sartre) Play. A re-read, this time with the Misses. Speaking of the last time I read this, neither then nor when I read the play in high school was there a film version readily available. What a wonder, then, to find it online this go-'round. This 1964 gem was directed by Harold Pinter, who also stars as Joseph Garcin. (Do you also find the music that introduces each of the characters via their death inordinately disturbing? *shudder*)


Fine Art Friday

And now...
The Key, 1946
Jackson Pollock, American, 1912-1956


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?