Monday, September 19, 2016

Little Women...a new season of reading has begun

Last Friday, the book group that has been meeting at LaDeDa for many years selected our titles for the coming months.  Our selection process is simple, titles are submitted in a latte mug and whatever one is pulled out first is what we read.  Every once in a while, I like to re-visit an old favorite, so I dropped Little Women into the mug.

 When it was pulled out, there were several spontaneous facial expressions that I didn't know how to interpret.  A whole new array of expressions burst forth when I grabbed a used copy and informed everyone that this simple story of the March family was over 400 pages.  Even I was surprised and suggested that perhaps we might want to choose a different book.  Nope.  We're sticking with this one, and I'm glad.

I started thinking about the classic works I taught throughout the years and of all the riffs on those stories that pop up.  We have Jane Austen, Beatrix Potter and others turning up as key figures, often as detective is cozy mysteries.  Just go ahead and Google "Books inspired by ____________________" and see what comes up.

This tiny, tons-o-fun book parodies seventy classics by shrinking them to clever poems that suck the marrow from the original.  After reading the original, I often shared the shrunken version with my students.  Beowulf is one of my favorites.

                                              Monster Grendal's tastes are plainish.
                                             Breakfast?  Just a couple Danish.

                                       Kind of Danes is frantic, very.
                                       Wait!  Here comes the Malmo ferry

                                     Bringing Beowulf, his neighbor
Mighty swinger with a sabre.

Hrothgar's warroirs hail the Swede
Knocking back a lot of mead.

Then when night engulf the hall
And the monster makes his call,

Beowulf with body-slam
Wrenched off his arm. Shazam!

Monster's mother finds him slain 
and goes and eats another Dane.

Down her lair our hero jumps
Gives old Grendel's Dam her lumps.

Later on as King of Geats
He performed prodigiuos feats

Till he met a foe too tough
(Non-beodegradabe stuff).

And that scaly aermored dragon
Scooped him up and fixed his wagon.

Sorrow stricken, half the nation
Flocked to Beowul's cremation.
Round his pyre with drums a-mufle
Did a Nordic soft-shoe shuffle.

That sums up the story nicely.

If you're wondering why we should even bother to read the classics when there's so much else to read, here are couple reasons.....

10 Reasons You Should be Reading the Classics

1. You’ll increase your vocabulary. Whether you want to impress your in-laws, boost your SAT scores, or deliver more effective presentations at work, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with words that instantly reflect your intelligence.
2. While you’re at it, you’ll also improve your social skills. A 2013 study showed that reading the classics, in contrast with commercial fiction and even non-fiction, leads to better social perception and emotional intelligence.
3. You’ll be reading something of value. The classics, and their typically universal themes, have stood the test of time; these are books in which we still find characters, experiences, emotions, and perspectives relevant today.
4. Literary references won’t go straight over your head. You’ll be a walking encyclopedia of major cultural references.  Great for those long winter nights of trivia.
5. You can “reward” yourself with the film version when you’re finished reading. 
6. The classics provide an opportunity to understand history and culture in context
7. They will enrich you in ways you didn’t expect.  Classic novels are restless creatures, trying out new forms of expression, challenging our views on how a culture might be understood and how a life might be packaged.
8. The classics challenge the brain… in a good way. Linguistic functions used by Shakespeare have been demonstrated to stretch the brain, and researchers believe that a thorough reading of Jane Austen is associated with a level of cognitive complexity beyond that involved in solving a difficult math problem.
9. Knowledge is power. IQ is the best predictor for job performance, educational attainment, income, health, and longevity.
10. Literature, along with (arguably) all forms of art, is a distinctly human form.  It is by definition an exploration of our own humanity, one of our most important tools of communication, and a force that both creates and reflects our culture.

So, it is with great hope of experiencing all ten of the above benefits of reading the classics that I will approach 400+ pages of Louisa May Alcott's book - a book for some reason I think I know all about but have never read.

Thanks for stopping by.