kitsjay: (Default)
afjsakj My dad's writing short stories!

Okay, okay, so I'm overwhelmed by how adorable this is, but back-story. My family is the personification of Southern oral tradition. If you thought oral tradition was just some weird anthropological case study of New Guinea or somewhere, come to my house on any weekend night. We sit around telling stories passed down from generation to generation and adding our own new ones as it goes along. Everyone in my family can tell you stories about the two draft horses my great-grandpa owned, or the way he got called up for WWI twice, or any number of things. I've always loved sitting around and hearing these stories, even though I could recite them by heart, because they're so comfortably Southern. They're all a part of me, these bits and pieces that all accumulated until I'm sitting here now. The more outrageous the stories, the better (and trust me, our family has some outrageous ones).

So I've always wanted to collect and preserve these stories but never got around to it. For some reason, my dad did though. And he sent me one! He was all embarrassed and sent it to me and Sean to look over, because he hasn't written in a really long time, but I think it's awesome.

Here's my dad's short story!

Smokin' Holes )

Both he and I would love it if you have any constructive criticism that I can pass along.
kitsjay: (Shells)
I'm in love with my professor.

I'm signed up for two classes this term--alas, fair TA Michael, I knew him well--and was missing chances to tramp about the woods and play park ranger/botanist* but all good things must end. And then begin again, because back to the professor love.

My first class I thought would be the more interesting one, Introduction to Ancient Rome, but it's mostly things I already knew and the textbook I really wanted to use (am I this nerdy? Yes, yes I am) is apparently only 'recommended'. It's got tons of primary sources and divulges tidbits from everyone from Apicius to Zeus (though he's not quoted; clearly, the temple priests were remiss). The professor, a graduate student, is sweet and personifies nerdiness. She was talking about patronage and slipped in a quote from The Godfather and then laughed at herself, so she's pretty adorable.

But she's not the one I love.

No, I am in love with my 20th Century Short Story professor. He of the Hemingway white suit, with a slow Southern drawl like lemonade in the sun that nearly disguises the fact he slips in expressions like 'ass-tear out of here' and other such amusements. He of the voice so powerfully emotive that I felt chills up my spine when he read Poe, the way it should be.

I'll confess, English had grown almost prosaic for me. I've got so many things that I read out of necessity, not for pleasure, and forgot the way you can drown in a novel and soak up short stories. I recently rediscovered some of the passion I had lost thanks to Harold Bloom, who scolds English majors for being apologetic about their field. There is a kind of embarrassment in admitting to being an English major, an inferiority complex of the sort that demands justification, which we find in relating it to other fields: sociology, anthropology, history, to name a few. Of course, an English major--or even the amateur** of literature--must be proficient in all these fields and more, but we've supplanted English with our own resentful sulkiness, like petulant children. Bloom aptly refers to this as "The School of Resentment", wherein we thrust our own prejudices upon literature and feel the need to proclaim a reason for literature***. I scoff, rightfully so. Do you go to the Louvre and demand that there be a reason for the statue of Nike? Do you look at it and think, "Yes, quite pretty, but what's the point?" No. It's for aesthetic pleasure, the greatest pleasure a human being can have.

To wit: "The idea that you benefit the insulted and injured by reading someone of their own origins rather than reading Shakespeare is one of the oddest illusions ever promoted by or in our schools."

How does this relate? When I signed up for 20th Century Short Story, I no longer thought of the excitement and ardor of my deep love for literature, but simply that it fulfilled an Area III requirement. School degree plans will be the death of intellectual curiosity.

But my professor breathes life back into the stories, fills them with human nature and psychological questioning and symbolism and motifs and never once diverges from the writing to espouse his own ideas. He never strays far from the story itself. He never once asked what the Marxist would think of Young Goodman Brown or what the psychologist would recommend for Montresor, but asked what the story itself said. Remarkable!

We're not confined to the boundaries of the English language, either, but have Gogol and Chekhov on our reading list. Scanning the syllabus, I felt an excitement previously lost well up within me at such breadth: Hawthorne, Poe, Melville, Kafka, Gilman, Chopin, Barthelme, and so many more of my old favorites, lovingly compiled into one small summer course.

Sheer bliss, my friends.


* I received an A in that class, for the record.
** Meant in the original sense of the word, from the Latin "amare", to love.
*** I wish I had been familiar with this critic before taking "Literature and Social Justice." Literature does not need a reason or justification, it simply is.

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January 2014

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