Sunday, 4 January 2009
Sunday Salon: We're going to party like it's 2009....oh
Isn't insomnia both a blessing and a curse? The curse is that I have been walking around like a zombie for most of today. The blessing is that I managed to keep one of my new year resolutions which is to update the Sunday Salon as much as a can. So far, in 2009 I have read two books. However, they are a slight cheat because both were started in 2008. Last week in fact. So let's see if I can make sense of notes I scribbled down at 5am this morning.
1) Tis by Frank McCourt
As I mentioned a few posts ago, I read Angela's Ashes when I was ill with a heavy cold a few weeks ago. This lead me to re-read Tis which follows Frank as he travels to America and tries to pursue his dreams of becoming a teacher, despite his own lack of education. In some ways I feel this book embodies part of the American Dream. Frank comes to America, works where he can and attends college at nights and at the weekends so he can become a teacher. Immigrant makes good. As he admits in some pages, he views his Protestant wife from New England as a ticket into this world of good teeth, hot water and education.
McCourt is very self-aware about almost everything: his bad teeth, Irish accent, bad eyes and guilt over things he has no control over. He makes so many attempts to get away from being Irish but this is like Gordon Brown trying to get away from being Scottish. It's impossible. He seems unsure of himself and his ability to teach. At one stage it appears he has gained enough confidence to be a teacher, confident in his abilities. Then his students discover his own lack of a high school education and this facade crumbles down. Instead of demonstrating to the kids how much education matters, he falters.
I have got Teacher Man, McCourt's book about his teaching experiences, lying around somewhere in the Mountain Range. His teaching stories are hilarious, if a tad repetitive but perhaps this is what he's trying to achieve, and do show that, regardless of the social status of the catchment area, you are always going to get kids who hate reading Shakespeare.
2) Beyond the Narrow Gate by Leslie Change
Again, this is a bit of a cheat because I started this book in 2008 and only finished it this morning. And it is another cheat because I have written about it on this blog. But let's see if the 4am thoughts bring anything new to this book.
Chang is conducting a mircostudy into the lives of four Chinese women who emigrated to America in the 1950s. The connection between these four women is that they all attended a high school in Taiwan. Other relationships become clear such as some individuals who sit uncomfortable between East and West. Chang cites a term attached to this generation of Chinese immigrants - the bamboo generation. They appear strong and supple but are hollow inside. This is certainly true of these four women. None of them seem content inside. Chang's mother, one of the four women, rarely seems satisfied and is always pushing herself to perform better at work. And frequently puts her work before her family. Leslie herself refuses to learn any form of the Chinese language. In the final chapter she admits she can never order her favourite meals in a Chinese restaurant because her parents have always done so for her.
All in all, not a bad read but it did take me a while to get into it. Sometimes I'd want to put the book down after four pages but I pushed with it. This morning I was surprised when I hit the last page in what seemed like no time at all.
And what's next? Well, my book group is discussing one of my favourite books of all time The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenerger. At 5.30am I had finished Beyond the Narrow Gate and had started on The Time Traveler's Wife. Now I'm at least a good quarter of the way through the book.
Other books on my bedside table include:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and other stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
So, here's to a good year of reading. My goals (reading wise) this year include:
*Keeping a list of books I've read
*Try to read more books than I did in 2008 (aprox. number read last year is around 60)
*Write my thoughts in my paper journal or, at the very least, make notes
These goals might be added to as time goes on!