Temerity Jane
08. 09. 2011

Now that I am watching John Green of the Vlogbrothers dissect The Great Gatsby with all that critical reading stuff I had no time or patience for in high school (also, only pretended to read The Great Gatsby in high school), I wonder if I need to go back and re-read all the crap I blew off back then. Because, you know what? Aside from Jane Eyre and maybe Emma, nothing that falls into the “classics” circle really overlaps with my “favorites” circle. And I think that’s because I was turned off from that kind of stuff in high school, because I was an idiot who thought critical reading for themes and symbolism was a waste of my time and probably just stuff the teacher made up, because, really? The author just buried all that stuff in there? Why, to make my life hard? AS IF. (It was the 90s.)

Except, yeah, they kind of do bury all that stuff in there. And I want to say I regret not being more critical in my critical reading back in high school, but let’s be honest. I don’t. I was an honor roll student without reading any books. I feel I made pretty excellent use of my time back in high school. I didn’t not read (what?) any books. I mean, I didn’t read the ones I was assigned. And I still did pretty okay.

But I’m wondering if now, in my totally mature almostthirtyhood, I am ready to give some of these books another try, maybe with a little more patience. Except for Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I won’t. I can’t even remember the slightest hint of what the plot of this book is, but I distinctly remember flinging myself to my bedroom floor when I attempted to read it my senior year of high school. So. No. Won’t be having any part of that again.

But then I remember that I have about three minutes a day to actually read. That I read books one page at a time. Okay, everyone reads books one page at a time, but I mean one page per session of reading. That it took me an entire month to read A Discovery of Witches, even though everyone else in the world lapped me twice on Twitter during my reading. And I also remember that I have a Kindle loaded with fun books and I’m reading The True Meaning of Smekday.

But maybe – MAYBE – I don’t have to get all D’Ubervilley. Maybe all books have something to offer to the critical reader. Right? Maybe, in The True Meaning of Smekday, there’s some deep symbolism to when the main Boov, J.Lo, is wearing is ghost costume, like when Holden is wearing his stupid flap-hat.

Maybe I’ll just watch all of the John Green videos on The Great Gatsby and continue to say I’ve read it, like I have since high school.

Tell me the truth. As an adult who is out of school (I KNOW THAT SOME OF YOU ARE NOT ADULTS AND ARE NOT OUT OF SCHOOL OR DON’T CONSIDER YOURSELVES ADULTS OR THINK THE WOOOORRLD IS YOUR SCHOOL), are you a critical reader? How often are you picking up books that could be found on a high school honors English reading list? If you do help yourself to classics on the regular, are you reading them to read them, or are you applying your deep reading skills to discover themes, symbolism and whatnots?

Oh, MAN, it used to make me SO ANGRY when a teacher would ask me to choose and discuss a major theme of the book, because I never grasped the definition of the word “theme” as teachers wanted me to understand it in that context. Um, plot? Moral? What? I don’t know. Never got it. Don’t explain it to me. I’m skipping that. Forever.

What about books that fall outside of what we, right now, consider to be the high school English class classics? Do you read all of your books with a critical eye, or do you just read for enjoyment? Or do you think that deep and critical reading of all books is part of the enjoyment?

I really want to know your honest answers. Don’t pretend, because I’m past the point in life where I’m impressed by intellectualism, pseudo- or realdo-. I’m more impressed with people who can read an entire book in a reasonable number of days and also keep the dog hair tumbleweeds under control and wash the stank off their gross baby once in a while. I am not that person. That is the person who impresses me. So you don’t have to feel like you need to be impressive in the comments.

I do want to know, though. Do you make a place for deep/critical reading and examination of texts for all the literary businessy things in your everyday reading, out of school? To all books or just “classics?” (I use quotes because I suppose it is hard to predict right now what exactly will be the “classics” of the future, and you could be reading one and not know it, so we’ll just go with “classics,” as defined by high school summer reading lists.) Or do you read just for pleasure? OR? Is a deep reading a part of the pleasure of reading for you?

I enjoy reading. I do it a lot. When Phil comes home for lunch, I always want to run and take a shower (see above re: gross baby stank), and I take a book with me. Into the shower. Not into the bathroom. Into the SHOWER. And that’s about the only time I get to read right now. But I do enjoy it. But are you enjoying it more? Or did you leave behind the critical reading practices when you turned in your final essay?

*****

(Related but not related to my questions, I have always been impressed (well, throughout the life of the Vlogbrothers YouTube career) by their – specifically John Green’s – belief in young adults. Both in general – to do big things, impressive things, and world-changing things – and specifically – to read tough books deeply and critically, to understand them on a level that most adults do not, and to enjoy learning how to read deeply and critically despite those who might not have faith in the ability of young people to do that. If you know a young person who is not involved in this community, I highly encourage you to encourage them, because it’s something I enjoy now, as an adult, and can only imagine the difference it probably would have made in my life as a teenager.)

25. 07. 2011

It seems to me that the release of the final Harry Potter movie occurring around the same time as Comic-Con has created the perfect Internet storm for people to be huge ass candles.

I guess you can still expect it from TV hosts and radio DJs, the type who never fail to go for the cheapest jokes, at least. Uh huh, basement dwellers and virgins and people who need to get a life.

But you, Internet? Really? You’re making the same tired jokes about those you perceive to be nerds? I’m so disappointed by some of the stuff I’ve seen on Twitter in the past couple of weeks, and I have some points to make about it.

1. I don’t understand how the push to eliminate bullying can exist in the same sphere (I am using the word “sphere” here as a fancy way to refer to what I see on Twitter) as jokes about Harry Potter fans at midnight showings or people dressed up at Comic-Con.

Is it that it’s only that it’s not okay for CHILDREN to make fun of other CHILDREN they think are nerds?

Is it that everyone else EVER makes the same lame ass jokes, so it’s okay if you say what everyone else has been saying forever anyway?

Is it that you’re not making fun of gay/minority/overweight/disabled people, so it doesn’t count as a big deal?

Is it not bullying if it’s just you making one joke about a huge group of people? Well, probably not. But it is absolutely a perpetuation of a ridiculous and insulting attitude. One that ADULTS do not need to be modeling for tiny impressionable people.

2. What are you even saying? What’s so funny about going to a showing of Harry Potter in costume, or hanging out with a group of like-minded fans at Comic Con, or LARPing, or playing video games, or role playing games, or those card based things that I’ve never fully grasped?

Seriously, what PART of that is funny or mockable? Is it that people are having fun doing something that you don’t choose to do? Or that they’re having fun doing something that you don’t understand? Having fun in some way that hasn’t been sanctioned by mainstream media, celebrities, or that girl in your high school who decided what was cool and what wasn’t?

I think this point is best illustrated by John Green, a little ways into this video, talking about the release of a previous Harry Potter film:

Hank, when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is, “You like stuff.” Which is not a good insult at all. Like, “You are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness.”

“Ha! Look at those people! Having fun! Enjoying themselves!”

Yeah, that’s kind of ridiculous.

3. To borrow a phrase I learned here on the Internet: Um, yeah, hi. This is the Internet. You’re on nerd-turf. You write blogs. You tweet. You clamor to the newest social media this or that. You connect with your friends through computer-based activities.

“Oh, but that stuff’s cool now, so it doesn’t count.”

Whatever, nerd.

Do nerds come to YOUR house and tell you how stupid and lame you are for… baking… muffins? I don’t know. This analogy fell apart. Imagine I used a good one to make my point in a killer fashion.

4. What are you trying to accomplish with that kind of joke or insult, because I can only see destructive consequences. You’re attaching shame to an activity or interest, with absolutely no justification other than “it’s nerdy.” Or you’re trying to establish superiority over a specific group of people, where nothing about you is actually superior because they’re just people.

If even one person is discouraged or embarrassed to jump into cosplay or go down to the local comic store to play Magic or whatever because of seemingly universally sanctioned mocking of “nerds,” something pretty awful has happened, I think.

In writing this disjointed absolutely senseless piece of blog crap, I’ve realized just one thing: it takes some BALLS to be an out and proud nerd, with even let’s-all-get-along, kum-bah-yah, anti-bullying, movement-of-the-moment ADULTS busting on you like some kind of easy target.

How about,

“Hey, good for you for joining a non-dangerous, non-criminal, non-asshole activity that you seem to really enjoy!”

or,

“You and your friends seem to be having a really fun time doing what you’re doing. It’s not MY thing, but I’m glad that you’ve found your people.”

Ok, there’s no real non-awkward way to compliment someone on their nerdiness, but come on. It’s equally awkward to say stuff like, “Ha! You’re having a good time! Lame!”

Also, I would like to posit that EVERYONE is a nerd about SOMETHING. So.

Anyway, nerds. Get down with your unironic bad selves. You seriously fucking rule.