One week until Sarah Vowell speaks at Lamar University, where I teach. If you are anywhere near southeast Texas, you should really try and make it. The lecture is free and open to the public as part of a bi-annual Academic Lecture Program. Sarah Vowell, who has written several books, has worked with NPR’s “This American Life,” performed the role of Violet in The Incredibles, and currently works on an HBO set, is the only writer I have ever found who can make the Puritans and the Pilgrims funny. Yes, I said funny. If you haven’t read anything by her or heard about her, she is touted as the “female David Sedaris,” a title I abhor because it sounds as though I believe, like Christopher Hitchens, that women can’t be humorous. I totally disagree, but I do like the reference, as I love love love David Sedaris. This line from her book The Wordy Shipmates is great:
Once Roger Williams was away from home and got word his wife was seriously ill. He wrote her a letter, later published as the pamphlet “Experiments in Spiritual Life and Health” that gives a reader an inkling of what it must have been like to be married to him.
“My Dearest Love and Companion in This Vale of Tears,” a pleasant enough start. “I now send thee that which I know will be sweeter to thee than honey,” he writes, “and of more value than if every line and letter were … gold and silver.” And what is a gift a girl wants more than jewelry? A sermon on proper Christian behavior, of course.
This has been such a long process (I’ve been working on it since about September), so I am really ready to see it all come to fruition. The chair of my department really gave me a long leash with this program, and I’ve had my hand in pretty much all aspects of the planning. Above is the program cover I designed. Today, I picked up all 500 copies after a hugely stressful morning in which the assistant at the reception space called and said she didn’t have us on the calendar for next week. I panicked. I let my classes go early after taking a quiz and began rapidly making phone calls and reassuring myself that this is the biggest snafu to hit. Crisis averted. So now I have verified the lecture space, reception space, stage prep, caterer for the reception, media, flowers, interpreter, etc.
Having said that, I am also teaching The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak this week and am enjoying it all over again. Hopefully, at the end of this week (maybe next), I’ll post more in-depth thoughts on it. I know many out there have read it, but it’s such a great novel with so many interesting, unique themes. My students are really enjoying it, but I am finding it difficult to stretch it out over two weeks. I may try and find some clips of Meet Joe Black to emphasize the isolation Death (the narrator) feels. If you have any suggestions at all for teaching this great book, please drop me a comment, or two or three… I actually got the Meet Joe Black suggestion from another professor and think it’s a great tie-in.
I am also attempting to read Brothers Karamazov for Dolce Belleza’s read-along, and I gotta tell you: It ain’t easy. I thought maybe after distancing myself from the disaster that was Ana Karenina (referring both to the book and my experience with the book), I wasn’t sure I’d ever tackle Russian literature again. Alas, Dolce enticed me; I signed up, and I WILL READ IT. I don’t know if it is simply my own block or the book itself that I find so difficult. The other distraction? All the other great books in my TBR stack and the mountain of tasks I have to complete in the next couple of weeks. Any encouragement to keep going would be much appreciated. Don’t make me beg.
So, now that I have officially whined for an entire post – what are you reading?