Monday, May 26, 2014

Airplane Reading

standing far left: Ralph Waldo Emerson
seated left, with book: Nathaniel Hawthorne
seated center: Henry David Thoreau, Sophia Thoreau
seated around tree: Margaret Fuller, Louisa May Alcott & Bronson Alcott

The Concord Transcendentalists in 1857
A Joshua Winer Mural.
6' high x 14' long. Private office in Concord, MA.
Acrylic on canvas painted in the studio and field installed.

"Never was a poor little country village infested with such a variety of queer, strangely - dressed, oddly behaved mortals, most of whom took themselves to be important agents of the world's destiny yet were simply bores of a very intense character."
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne ~

"I think there prevailed at that time a general belief in Boston that there was some concert of doctrinaires to establish certain opinions and inaugurate some movement in literature, philosophy and religion, of which design the supposed conspirators were quite innocent; for there was no concert, and only here and there two or three men or women who read and wrote, each alone, with unusual vivacity. Perhaps they only agreed in having fallen upon Coleridge and Wordsworth and Goethe, then on Carlyle, with pleasure and sympathy. Otherwise, their education and reading were not marked, but had the American superficialness, and their studies were solitary. I suppose all of them were surprised at this rumor of a school or sect, and certainly at the name of Transcendentalism, given nobody knows by whom, or when it was first applied. As these persons became in the common chances of society acquainted with each other, there resulted certainly strong friendships, which of course were exclusive in proportion to their heat: and perhaps those persons who were mutually the best friends were the most private and had no ambition of publishing their letters, diaries or conversation. From that time meetings were held for conversation, with very little form, from house to house, of people engaged in studies, fond of books, and watchful of all the intellectual light from whatever quarter it flowed. Nothing could be less formal, yet the intelligence and character and varied ability of the company gave it some notoriety and perhaps waked curiosity as to its aims and results.

"Nothing more serious came of it than the modest quarterly journal called
The Dial, which, under the editorship of Margaret Fuller, and later of some other, enjoyed its obscurity for four years. All its papers were unpaid contributions, and it was rather a work of friendship among the narrow circle of students than the organ of any party. Perhaps its writers were its chief readers . . . "
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~
100th Lecture at the Concord Lyceum, 1880

quoted by Susan Cheever in American Bloomsbury, p 50

. . . which I had in my carry - on the last time I traveled . . .

. . . also read on recent flights . . .

The List
by Robert Whitlow

A Walk to Remember
The Best of Me
both titles by Nicholas Sparks

Silent Witness
by Richard North Patterson

a couple of favorite lines from Patterson:

". . . in some crevice of our souls, we are always seventeen" (p 271.

When assembling a jury, main character Attorney Tony Lord
"gambled on . . . a nutritionist, who . . . seemed closest
to those 'practitioners of the human arts'
-- counselors, psychiatrists, and sociologists --
whose careers reward compassion
" (p 279).

I was stuck by this particular passage because Lord's assessment reflects my teaching experience at Drexel University in the Fall of 1996, when I was assigned an entire group of computer science majors in one class of Freshman English, and another class made up entirely of Graphic Arts majors. For some reason, not quite clear to me, Drexel felt that it was a good idea to clump the students together like this -- rather than mixing them up -- resulting in hopelessly homogeneous classrooms.

However, in each of my two sections appeared one lone Foods and Nutrition Major. Could it have been that Drexel did not have enough students in this major to unite them as a group, so they dispersed them amongst all the others? Whatever the reason, each of these young women -- one an 18 - year - old recent high school graduate, the other a returning student in her early 30s, with a 5 - year old son -- bore the whole weight of the counter - culture for her peers.

As Patterson observes, I too found that these pre - nutritionists indeed lent a kinder, gentler, more humane perspective to the classroom. They were the two I counted on for a certain depth of feeling and sensitivity when it came to analyzing poetry and grasping the element of human conflict that underlies most works of fiction. I relied on their compassion and insights in our classroom discussions and can certainly see why Tony Lord would want at least one of them on his panel of jurors!

Thanks to my mom
for sending Patterson, Sparks, and Whitlow my way;
and for additional recommendations
. . . coming next month!