Tag Archives: literature

Strunk – no Stunk & White – No Style (on my part)

Judging a book by its cover – would you want to read this?

I’ll admit it; I read books just to say I’ve read them. I excuse myself, because I usually end up loving them, like Anna Karenina. (now I just made myself sound super educated and snooty by having read that behemoth of a novel)

Over the summer I read Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. I even read a book on the history of Elements of Style. The history held my attention better (I always did like history).

I enjoyed E.B. White’s introduction and comments on style at the end; otherwise, I found it kind of “meh”.

Sacrelige for me to say, I know.

Hey, I love the rule “Omit needless words”. Don’t always listen to it though.

So, I’ve read the book, “the little book” as it was called. I can now call myself accomplished in matter of English Composition (or at least the knowledge of it) by having done so. Hurrah!

I liked Grammar Girl’s Grammar book better. I’m a sucker for commercialism.

C’mon, This book looks way more fun!


Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Humor


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I Will “Love You Forever”

Cover of "Love You Forever"

Cover of Love You Forever

Back when I was young and impressionable, I fell in love – with a book, Robert Munsch’s “Love You Forever”. I didn’t know back then that it was award-winning and famous, it was my book, and I felt special about it. I took it out from the library very often, and hid it; it was for me, alone.

Introduced to it, not as a little child, but more of an angsty tween, I think it helped abate a little of my anger and frustration. I understood from the book that my mother did love me, despite whatever went down during the day. And at night, while I lay sleeping I could envision my mother singing to me,

“I’ll love you forever.

I’ll like you for always,

As long as I’m living

My baby you’ll be”

I bought myself the book when I found out I was pregnant with my son. I had visions of reading it to him, and possibly singing my own song to him. Of course, if you know anything about children, that dream not materializing is not a shocker, but I relate to the book more and more each day.

“Bun, no cookies”


“Uch, put that in the garbage!”


“Stop pulling my shaitel”

Ha ha ha!

“I just cleaned that up”

Hee Hee Hee

“Please eat something!”


I look forward to naptimes, and bedtime. I look forward to breathing, doing something other than being his mommy, and a clean house.

Something happens though, every time, just moments after putting him down.

I miss him.

I love him.

And I just want to sit there and watch him sleep – forget about whatever I need to do in these few moments spaced too far and wide.

No matter what he does, no matter how much I kvetch, in my heart I’ll always be singing,

“I’ll love you forever.

I’ll like you for always,

As long as I’m living

My baby you’ll be”


Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Parenting


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Profiles in Personality

Every year I teach, somehow, Don Marquis poem “Takes Talent” comes up, and I end up reciting it to the delight of my students, who aren’t from the era of memorizing your favorite poems, or prose (they’re not even from the days of memorizing the preamble to the Declaration of Independence or Gettysburg address).  Sometimes I tell them how I first read this poem when I was in 8th grade, and have been quoting it ever since, sometimes I tell them I recited on a bad date and the guy conceded that he was of the first kind described in the poem. Sometimes I tell them it was written on the wall of bedroom (when I was single), and sometimes, I just tell them about Archie the cockroach who Marquis wrote under the guise of, skipping my personal connection. The poem is a follows, for those of you (most of you, I’m assuming) who are not familiar with it.

 Takes Talent
by Don Marquis

there are two
kinds of human
beings in the world
so my observation
has told me
namely and to wit
as follows
those who
even though they
were to reveal
the secret of the universe
to you would fail
to impress you
with any sense
of the importance
of the news
and secondly
those who could
communicate to you
that they had
just purchased
ten cents worth
of paper napkins
and make you
thrill and vibrate
with the intelligence

Every time without fail, I always end up thinking about two friends of mine, sisters, who, while I wouldn’t totally confine them to the paper napkin variety, as they do possess a mass quantity of intelligence to balance them out, however on day to day interactions, there is always something of dramatic interest to relate. There’s no such thing as an average day, or just a conversation, when walking away from any interaction there’s always something to say and comment on. And sometimes I walk away questioning myself, and my interpretations in life, who is right? Am I an unobservant, middle-road, never too extreme kind of person? I don’t think so, with most things, but relative to them, I’m a stick in the mud.

One time, after an interaction with the princpal she turns to me,“Hello, she was furious with us, did you see her eyebrows?” Eyes wide, her eyebrows perked up, and mouth open in intense question. Ummm…well, I think, she wasn’t happy with us, but she didn’t seem too upset, yes, she sugarcoated some words, but the situation is workable, as for her eyesbrows, I dunno, she pencils them in, they’re always extreme.

Telling over one story from our road-trip, “Hello, it was miserable, we’re sitting there, on the side of the road, cars just flying by, too fast for us to wave forlornly at them, and them, and then it hit us, like DING, call AAA. It must have been at least an hour, maybe longer, when AAA showed up, but then in like seconds we were up an’ running. But seriously, until they came – despair!”

Yeeeeaaah, I was there. We were singing every children’s song we knew, and having  a blast, eating all the mike and ikes, and then AAA showed up, and we were on the way. Ye, we might’ve flipped for a moment when the car broke down, and we weren’t sure what to do,  but it was a minute, really. Calling AAA is common sense, not genius, why are you exclaiming, “ooh, that’s so smart” when she tells you we called them?

And then there was the time one of them got me a job giving private swimming lessons. I’m very capable of doing it, and I did a good job, but I wasn’t looking for the job, she just happen to meet someone by a pool we were swimming by who commented she was looking for someone to teach her 4 year old swimming basics. I swam by, doing my umpteenth lap, and heard my name being called, and then as if I wasn’t there, she went on singing my praises – I was a lifeguard for years, taught tons of kids, my whole family is major swimmers, and on and on. All of it was true, but I would have never phrased it that way.  She also kept using words like, amazing, and the best, and bashert that we had met up today, which I wasn’t comfortable with. Yes, I’m good, I’m skilled, but really, the best, I don’t think so. Amazing? What does that word mean anyway in this context.  But the woman was sold, and I had a side summer job. I’m not complaining, but but—

The other night I was working with one of them on a project – changing the lyrics of a musical to fit a play we are working on. I think we did a good job in keeping the core of what made the song great in the first place, not perfect, there  are a few rough spots, and I don’t like all the transitions, but overall, really good, and I’m not embarrassed take credit for it. She though, was ecstatic, “It’s beautiful,” she tells me, “You’re so good at this,” “That line is brilliant, I don’t know how we did it”, and“Oh my gosh, I’m so excited about this!” I really think we may win a Tony now.

I feel like they’re living on a different plane of existence, even if we are experiencing the same thing, the way we interpret them and relate them, the dichotomy, is the clichéd night and day. To them a day is never a day, there’s always something fabulous, stupendous, horrendous or dreadful. You will talk to them, and you won’t think they’re drama queens, they’re not, they just know how to talk. And you will listen, and wish you had been there with them, or done when they did when x,y and z happened.

Am I missing something?

I ask my student’s if they could choose only one of the personalities presented in the poem, no in between balance, which would they choose? Most couldn’t decide if they wanted the intelligence, but no one caring to hear a word they said, or to talk total fluff and have everyone’s neck craned forward to hear your next utterance? I try pressing them for a definitive answer, but then they ask me for my choice, and I can’t decide either.

Good thing mutually exclusive things don’t come along that often, and that there is balance to most things in life…but still…if I had to choose… Is it really about how you talk, or how you experience life, which affects which?… If I had to choose…


Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Teaching


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When Two Collide

Castilian literature in BCN • Literatura caste...

Image by A nosa disco necesítanos via Flickr

With many eligible people in my life, I’ve been hearing a lot about dating, the issues, the awkwardness, the stupidities, and what-not.

I’m also currently teaching literary terms and elements to my students, with those two in mind, I’d like to share with you one of the most accurate dating similes, brought to you, courtesy of my husband’s chavrusa (he’s eligible)

Dating is like talking to a Shabbos Guy, you can’t say what  you’re feeling or thinking directly; you have to come up with some awkward way to get your point across.


Posted by on October 6, 2010 in Humor, Jewish, Shidduchim


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Nice = Boring

My students often ask me why literary characters are so weird. They all have personality quirks, tragic flaws, weird habits, crazy situations, no one can just be. I’ve always told them simply, “nice people are boring”


Nice people are boring to be with, sure their nice, but you’re not walking away with anything. Not saying that a person can’t be nice, but if someone asks you to describe someone and the first description is “nice”, she boring; same goes for “sweet” and “heart of gold”.


I am a very nice person, I’ll do a favor for anyone, seriously, but nice is nowhere near the first word you would use to describe me. Hence, if there are no other dominating traits than nice, hire them as lackey.


In education, they tell you that bringing examples and non-examples really help clarify concepts. Like this is a shade of blue, so is this and this, but this is not. My point originally was not to discuss, niceness, but to bring literary proof and back myself up that nice people make boring stories. It took me a while to find my non-example (because writer are very into quirkisizing their characters), and here it is…Persuasion, by Jane Austen.


It feels almost sacrilege trashing Jane Austen like this, but that story was bad. Maybe not the premise, but the characterization severely detracted from it. Anne was the nicest bore to ever almost not get married. In any case, if Jane Austen can’t make nice interesting, no one can. Case Closed.


Posted by on June 27, 2008 in Teaching, Uncategorized


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Culture Snobs Vs. Ignorant Peasants (Sniff sniff)

I am trying to decide if it is worth being a culture snob. Do people who are experts on different aspects of culture, appreciate it more than people who just happen to like it?

Do foodies appreciate sushi more than my friend that eats it every day?

Does the art critic enjoy Monet more than my cousin who has Water lilies posted on to his walls, as his screensaver, and professional stationary background?

Does the Jane Austen fan love it more than an English Professor?


So, I’m going to try to look at it from both perspective, my level of appreciation and enjoyment of something when I’m an happy ignoramus, and when I’m a snobbish expert, Classical Music for the former, and Literature, the latter.


See, I like classical music. Yeah, I know it’s nerdy for a 20 year old with no background in music to be into it, but never mind. My point is, I like certain pieces; Clara Schumann’s Scherzo Op. 10 for one. I love the piano; I love the way the music speeds up, slows itself down, and repeats itself with variations on the original “tune”. Do I have to know about motives, motifs, and what “scherzo” actually means to appreciate it?


I recently started taking voice lessons (I have nothing better to do with my time). My teacher is very into the voice is an instrument; you need to be able to read music, and know basic music theory, blah blah blah. I don’t mind, it is something new. So, we were going through the minor scales and I think it was D- minor or something, and she’s like,


“Bach is all about D-minor, he writes everything in it that key.”


I nodded my head as if I knew what she was saying and that was that.


So my question is, who enjoys Bach more? I mean I love his “Music from the Ravine”, but I have no idea what key he’s playing in, I just know it sounds good, calms me down, keeps me focused. This is me being ignorant. It doesn’t hurt; I’m fine; life is good. No bad side affects other than people constantly sniffing at me.


            On the other hand, I think being an English Teacher has ruined reading for me. I know the elements that make a good story, I know the techniques; I know what to look for in style, voice, conventions. I know good plot development, three dimensional characters, and strong themes. And what does that get me: a headache.


I can’t read a book anymore without analyzing it as potential teaching material. I rip them apart; dissect them till it bleeds, and then kill them. After it’s dead I’ll extol it’s virtues as an after thought, much like a eulogy. I will disagree with certain character actions, the presentations of literary elements, sentence structures, poetic license…


 So, I know what to appreciate, I know the elements, I know the talent and effort, but I can’t enjoy it anymore. It is like watching a movie after visiting Universal Studios. They show you all the tricks, and it is not magic anymore, it is actually very disappointing. You find yourself looking for mistakes, a faulty mike, inconsistency in frames, a camera reflected in a mirror. You cannot just sit back and enjoy the whole piece.


But then again, knowing all the elements makes you go WOW!!! You can really appreciate and revel in the talent because you know what it takes to get there.


As I am writing, my mind is thinking, a normal process, and I have come up with a resolution for this desperate debate. Being a snob lets you appreciate the talent, ignorance let us appreciate the piece. And since the piece is the purpose, and the talent is the vehicle in which it comes, I think I would like to appreciate the end and not the means.


Ignoramuses of the world cheer!!!


Snobs, we will let you sniff.


P.S. I just realized that I could just settle this whole thing based on semantics. The Expert appreciates it, the Peasant Enjoys it… Now I have to go back and find every time I used appreciate incorrectly…




Posted by on June 26, 2008 in Teaching, Uncategorized


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