Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What I'm Reading

1. Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World, by Anne Jamison et al. (2013)
Essays on fan-written works, for example:
"Fic U: Higher Education through Fanfiction (Or, How Several Years of Writing Sex Stories about Television Characters Can Be Just as Valuable as––and Way Cheaper Than––a College Education)"

I also see the value of fan creation as education:
the way Marz, for instance, is delving into the Seventies background of Starsy & Hutch as deeply or more deeply than [most] classes would take her. Hers is a mix of purposeful search (why does Starsky wear Adidas? what programs/apps give you the best tools to create fanvids?) and serendipity:
The other day she was laughing hysterically having stumbled on the news that Jimmy Carter was attacked by a swimming bunny. (Some of us remember that firsthand...)

Or the way I got interested in Star Trek's use of mid-century design. (I was just talking about spun aluminum the other day, when a set of tumblers came into the Thrift Store.)

Alas, fandom doesn't provide a piece of paper you can parley into a job.

2. The Rime of the Modern Mariner, by Nick Hayes (2011)
A cartoon modernization of the Coleridge poem, with the mariner ending up stuck in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I picked this up for my research---it's great!
So I turned around frustrated
And looked across the sea
And saw we were surrounded...
By a wash of polythene.
  . . .
Tupperware and bottletops
Bottled bleach and tyres...
The detritus of a careless kind...
A scattered funeral pyre.
3. The Scavengers, by Michael Perry, 2014
Also picked up for research purposes---it's a Y/A novel about a girl in the dystopian future who lives with her family near a dump, from which they scavenge junk to live on and barter. Sort of a retelling of Little House on the Prairie (which the girl learns to read on).

I wouldn't have noticed when I was a kid, but the author's conspiracy theories soured the story a bit for me: the [future] government has staged terrorist attacks, has left people defenseless by taking away their guns...
Still, I think I'll put it in the reading list--it's an interesting enough take on garbage.

4. Skating to Antarctica: A Journey to the End of the World, by Jenny Diski (1998)

When I was recently trying to reread Doris Lessing (below, left), looking around online I learned that she had taken in Jenny Diski (below, right) in 1963 when she was essentially a homeless teenager.
After Lessing died in 2013 and Liski was diagnosed with lung cancer a year later, Liski began to write a memoir of that time. First installment in the LRB: "What to Call Her".

So then I got interested in Diski. Skating to Antarctica is a memoir of looking for the peace of empty white spaces--she really goes to Antarctica--and a reflection of growing up, not coincidentally, with a crazy mother and a con man for a father.

5. The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life, Parker Palmer (1998)
I picked this book out of a Little Free Library box yesterday when I was walking the dog I'm house sitting, because I knew Palmer, whom I've read before, would be soothing to my shaky inner self, having just failed at being a kind of teacher myself. (Leading Activities was a kind of teaching).

["Failed" maybe sounds too harsh, but I failed at least in the word's meaning to "cease to exist or to function, come to an end", which was not what I'd intended and which feels bad.]

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I started Palmer's book last night, and right away I felt the relief of recognition. He titles one of his sections "When Teachers Lose Heart", and I thought, yeah, that's it, I lost heart at work:
the circumstances were disheartening.

I'd often thought in that job that I could now relate better to what teacher friends say about feeling demeaned and diminished by the administration of schools, even though the work itself is incredibly worthwhile. It's a big problem, not just mine (ha! hardly).

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