Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Random Book Report

Last night I finished the book, The Day I Became an Autodidact, by Kendall Hailey. You can tell it was written by someone who was still in her teen years. – I was alternately impressed by it and incredibly annoyed by it. I mean, it is an amazing luxury to have two parents who will allow you to finish high school a year early, and then let you spend several years just reading whatever books you want . . . after week 3 of being at home, my Dad would have ordered me to get off my lazy butt and get a job if I wasn’t going to school. It also is incredibly uncommon to have a well-to-do playwright and a famous author as parents who can indulge said autodidact-ism. Ms. Hailey’s voice sounded like someone very well-educated, extremely privileged, and quite na├»ve. She had a lot of good to say, and I think it would be great reading for a teen or anyone who doesn’t quite know what to do with themselves.

A friend of mine recommended it and said the book changed his life. I need to ask him how old he was when he started it . . . and it what way did it change him? It does make a compelling case to read all of the classics and anything else you can get your hands on – that to truly educate yourself you don’t need to sit in a classroom – but at the same time, I was taken aback at how Ms. Hailey basically made herself a hermit – disconnected a great deal from the outside world, except for interacting with her family and her dad’s playwriting group. Her old school friends write her letters and share a lot of what is going on in their lives at college and elsewhere, and it seems that she feels above the fray – like she’s glad not to be sullied by getting these tacky life experiences. People are actually out interacting with life and she is only still sitting in her room observing it, living through others’ writings.

You can’t educate yourself by just sitting and reading and observing, you have to actually go out and get your hands dirty and heart broken . . . You need to walk down different paths and see which one fits you best . . . Ms. Hailey may have learned a lot intellectually, but did she ever learn what it means to be an individual in the world, making her own way, figuring out her place in it? That is the story I’d really like to read – how did she find real life, once she left her parents’ house?

I also notice that some homeschooling organizations love the book and recommend it (love that Google) . . . to me, this book doesn't quite fit that model. Ms. Hailey actual went to school up through 11th grade, and her lack of meaningful interactions with the outside world once she stopped going to school is not something that I personally would recommend.

Here is the Amazon review for it: (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0440550130/102-7834869-9985742?v=glance&n=283155&v=glance). It seems to have a number of admirers . . . the jury is still out for me . . .

Did you ever e-mail some old friends that you haven’t talked to in a while, and then wait for them to answer and get really anxious as days pass by without a response? That’s where I am right now. I always feel like it is my fault if we don’t stay in touch with someone, although, you know, they can send an e-mail once in a while, too. Then you think, “am I not cool enough anymore? Do they not want to talk to me?” . . . Boy, am I neurotic . . .

I’ve been in a cranky, horrible mood today – getting irritated at, well, irritating things – but more so than usual. It is autumn. I am antsy. I am ready for change. I want to work on my NaNoWriMo stuff and not do funder reports and conference planning, which I hate. I am ready for a rest, to be a homebody and drink cocoa and look out on the changing leaves. I want to bake some cookies. I want to not have to worry about irritating details which only a small subset of a small subset of humanity would even care about. I want . . . a nap . . .

I have to teach tonight, so I need to suspend the horrible mood and give my all. My students work all day, too. They are also tired and cranky. They drag themselves to class because they want to improve their English, want to expand their opportunities. The least I can do is make the experience pleasant for them and be engaged in what’s going on . . . I can fume more when I get home . . .

Today, I leave you with another poem from The New Yorker . . . very powerful imagery . . .

A Choice

by Ryszard Kapuscinski

(Translated, from the Polish, by Diana Kuprel and Marek Kusiba.)

To walk away

to slam behind the lid of silence

or yet again

to take up the effort anew

to free the throat from the strangle

to fight to breathe

to pronounce a word

to utter a whole sentence

to speak up

in haste

before they once again apply the gag

I know you’re waiting

you

who listen intently

who put your ear

to a deaf wall

2 comments:

Merci said...

Don't you love reports that no one will care about (or comment on) unless they aren't done? I still have to do my monthly report for October. What a thankless task!

I would love to have had the luxury of staying home to read for several years. Perhaps the author's parents saved money in the long run, what with the cost of college these days! Still, it seems to me that we learn more in terms of discipline by having a variety of assignments to manage, not just reading.

Virginia Gal said...

Ugh I hate priviledged kids who are spoiled...I wonder if this kid would have gotten her book deal if her mom wasn't a famous author. Narcissm bites.
Your comments about the email had me smiling, I am completely the same, I send someone a note and than wait anxiously for a reply...getting more worried as the days go by and I hear nothing, thinking up outlandish scenarios for why no response has been sent (they were in a freak alligator accident, they hate me, they have voo-doo dolls of me and are pinning me now etc. etc).