Archive for January, 2013

Lighting the Spark

Posted: January 27, 2013 in On Novels

“With all that alcohol in him, it’s probably not advisable to have him around an open flame.“

Well, boys and girls, it happened. The spark was lit, the fire kindled, the revolution started. I have officially finished reading Catching Fire and have begun to read Mockingjay. I have actors in my head picked out for characters in future films, I have had to defend the novels from the scrutiny of friends, and I am eagerly awaiting the remaining movies in anticipation. Yup, it’s official. The Hunger Games has hooked me.

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The second novel roped me in and kept me there much easier than the first one had. So far, the second one definitely has to be my favorite; it has everything I felt that the first one was lacking! More gratuitous violence, more vicious of a Capitol, more fleshed out tributes, and less “oh mai gawd he likes me?!?!” obliviousness from Katniss. So, imagine my surprise when I find out there are people out there who loved the first and hated this one. “Too graphic”? What kind of complaint is that? These people are fighting to the !@#$ing death, what are you expecting? Rainbows and sunshine to pour from their open wounds? I bet these are the same people who read all of the novels like A Child Called It and cried their bloody eyes out. Suck it up, buttercup – life is rough, and it’s about to get a whole ‘lot rougher for the citizens of Panem.

So what’s going on?

For those of you who haven’t read The Hunger Games (and if you haven’t, why not? It was required reading for the first week!), the novels follow the story of one Katniss Everdeen, a girl (and master huntsman. or is it huntswoman?) who gets roped into a contest by a tyrannical Capitol where she fights to the death with 23 other people for the sake of fame, glory, and not starving to death. Not only does she win the competition (omg spoilerz) but her and other victor Peeta Mellark  spit in the Capitol’s face by threatening to commit suicide and leave The Hunger Games with no victor.

SO, fast forward to Catching Fire – Peeta and Katniss must go on a Victory Tour around Panem, being paraded around. One President Snow (aka Donald Sutherland) has tasked Katniss with quelling the growing rebellion in the 12 different districts that she inadvertantly caused by forcing the Capitol to declare two winners. Still following me here? Most of you have read this, you already know what’s what. Katniss’s attempts to quell rebellion fail, and since it’s the 75th anniversary of the first Hunger Games, President Snow announces that this batch of tributes will be selected from past winners.. seemingly while rubbing his hands together and grinning devilishly.

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Book v. Film

Given the liberties the first film took with some of the more important plot points, I wonder how what kind of shennanigans they’re going to pull off with this one. Madge and her father are relatively important characters in the first novel (Katniss getting her pin from Prim does make sense, I suppose), but they’re completely left out of the first film. Are they going to be introduced in the second one at all? Are the parts at the Mayor’s home even going to be included? I’m also wondering how they’re going to compensate for some of the more graphic portions; people being devoured by killer fog, throats being slit, and tridents to the gut not withstanding, or the parts where one Johanna feels the need to strip down to her birthday suit. What kind of butchering are they going to have to do to the story to make this all fit in a PG-13 setting? I am excited to see Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch be more of a badass, though. Not to mention, with all the fleshing out they did of President Snow in the first film, he’s bound to go full-blown evil mastermind in the second.

Though, I will say again for repetition’s sake, the fact that they’re making Mockingjay into two films is pure idiocy. Apparently every director ever has decided that 3 to 7 billion-dollar-grossing movies isn’t enough. No, instead, they’re going to ride the cash cow all the way to the slaughterhouse.

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Verdict:

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a huge fan of Catching Fire. We don’t spend too much time in the arena, nor too much on the Victory Tour. All of our characters are given some decent fleshing out, everyone from Mrs. Everdeen to Katniss’s team of stylists are given little moments that make them seem more like people and less like cardboard cutouts (like those that COMPLETELY OCCUPY SOME OTHER NOVELS). I’m a couple chapters into Mockingjay, and everyone so far has told me that it’s good, but it’s boring.

Respectfully to the opinion of others, what the hell does that mean? How can something be both good but boring? Either you’re entertained, or you’re not. If it was good, you were entertained, and you’re trying to say something like “it’s slow to get going”. If it’s just flat boring, than it wasn’t good. Pick one. So far, I think it’s just as good as the others. Katniss has evolved from hardened teenager to seasoned killer to reluctant leader. Boom. Dynamic characters. What up? Mic drop. I’m outtie. See you next week.

Sic Semper Tyrannis

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From the Outside In

Posted: January 22, 2013 in On Novels

They grew up on the outside of society. They weren’t looking for a fight. They were looking to belong.”

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I was no stranger to growing up an outcast. Yeah, yeah, I know you’ve heard this story a hundred times before, but hear me out, I’m serious! I don’t know if any of you are familiar with Alliance, Nebraska, but here’s the law of the land: football and drinking. It’s kind of like Chadron in that sense. So, being a middle school kid with long hair, no athletic ability , and no desire to be a party animal, I didn’t fit in much. High school dudes seemed to thoroughly enjoy being tough guys from the windows of their cars speeding by, and girls seemed to thoroughly enjoy tormenting me by teasing me about my hair and being facetiously flirtatious. Luckily, I found a circle of fellow long-haired heathen stoner skater goth satanist kids like myself, and we’ve pretty much been hitting it off ever since then (joking about the stoner goth satanist parts. Aren’t cliques fun, boys and girls?).

So what’s going on?

For the uninitiated, The Outsiders is a novel by S.E. Hinton that follows the story of Ponyboy Curtis (you read me right) who lives with his two older brothers Darry and Sodapop (right again). The Curtis boys and their gang of friends made up of degenerates, thieves, hoods, and outcasts are part of a gang called the Greasers; real slicked-back long hair, leather jacket with a switchblade in the pocket types of dudes just looking to belong somewhere.. you can see how I was able to identify with this. The Greasers are constantly at war with the Socials or Socs, the rich kids from the other side of town who have nice haircuts, drive cool cars, and have everything handed to them on a silver platter.

What I’ve just explained to you is the prime reason I’ve loved The Outsiders since I first had to read it in around sixth grade. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have the estranged family relationships at home, I had both parents and no issues with my family. Rather, the whole US vs. THEM theme pretty much painted the picture of my life up ’till my sophomore year in high school. The Greasers are just looking to get by and have a good time, but the Socs won’t let them be. Eventually it all culminates into a huge battle royal between sides: someone is killed, someone goes on the run, and the lines in the sand become very blurred.

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Why is this considered “young adult”?

Have I mentioned enough times the whole theme of “us v. them” and belonging? Anyone on the football team was my sworn arch-nemesis through all of middle school, so upon reading this book I could practically drop myself in as another one of the gang. A lot of the novel deals with Ponyboy’s interactions with different Socs, and his slow realization that despite all the fighting, they really aren’t that different. One of the most beautiful lines from the entire thing is one where Pony is talking to a girl named Cherry, the girlfriend of a Soc who beat one of the Greasers within an inch of his life:

“Can you see the sunset real good from the West Side? You can see it good from the East Side, too.” Ponyboy doesn’t necessarily enjoy the fact that everyone can’t just get along, but he also recognizes that things aren’t going to change just because he wishes they would.

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Besides the Greasers / Socs conflict, there are many other young adult themes at work here. The theme of a struggling family shows up and sort of sets the stage for the main conflict of the book. The Curtis boys’ parents are dead, and Darry, the oldest brother, is allowed to serve as a parent to his younger brothers as long as they don’t get in trouble with the law. Fearing for Ponyboy’s future, Darry often comes down on him hard for seemingly miniscule slip-ups, and Ponyboy resents him for it. Sodapop often winds up having to be the mediator between the two, but what he doesn’t show is that the constant in-fighting between Darry and Ponyboy is tearing him up inside. On top of this, the themes of coping with loss / the death of friends / family comes up much later in the novel.. but I won’t spoil it for all 3 of you who haven’t read this yet.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be young adult without the presence of violence and drug use. The Greasers often get their kicks out of general debauchery: slashing car tires, holding up stores, picking fights with other, smaller groups in the overall gang, and of course.. smoking and drinking! All of these issues (or at least ones like them) are ones that young adults have to face at one time or another. Let me tell you, a black hooded sweatshirt and hair below your jaw-line instantly makes you a criminal.. if you’re male, anyway. I think the police back home actually got a bonus in their paycheck if they stopped my friends and I more than 5 times in a week (didn’t know that being too loud in a public place at 4 in the afternoon was a thing, officer!)

Verdict?

If you have not read this already, read it. Honestly, it took me one two hour sitting.

Read it for your unrequired reading one week. And then, go see the movie with the likes of Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Emelio Estevez, and Ralph Maccio! For reals. You know you wanna see a pre-Scientology Tom Cruise being a badass.

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Whether you were a would-be hoodlum or not as a kid, we can all relate to needing to belong, to feeling like they’re out to get you, and finding solace only in friends and family. Some things, like being a kid, never change. Whether that’s good or bad.. hey, I don’t have all the answers.

Carpe Diem!

Whose Side Are You On?

Posted: January 18, 2013 in On Comics

Brother fighting against brother, uneasy alliances being forged, families being ripped apart, and bodies piling up by the battle.

What I’m taking about has nothing to do with Abraham Lincoln nor Union v. Confederacy. No, I speak of a Civil War the likes of which we have never seen! I’m talking about Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man! The First Avenger vs. The Genius Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist in a fight that will determine the fate not just of super powered folks (hero and villain alike), but the very fate of the Constitution as we know it.

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Are you still with me? Good. Marvel’s Civil War is actually the storyline that convinced me to actually begin picking up comic books in the first place. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that it was a really intimidating hobby to get interested in. When you miss a few episodes (or a season) of your favorite TV series, no big deal; you get on Hulu or Netflix or even YouTube and watch all the episodes, and you’re caught up. Comic books are a whole ‘nother ballgame. Some comic books have been running since the 1940’s, and the characters we know and love from the big screen have most likely gone some seriously dramatic changes from the source material the film was based on (EXAMPLE: As I type this, in the mainstream Marvel continuity, Doc Ock, the villain from the 2nd movie, and Peter Parker have switched bodies. Spidey is slowly dying while Doc Ock has assumed his identity).

Despite all of that, I decided I should give it a try anyway. I mean what sounds cooler than a bunch of superheroes fighting, right? I’m sure I can overlook any holes in the continuity for the sake of seeing Captain America and Spider-Man go toe-to-toe. What I expected going in was the typical kid fantasy acted out with action figures, what I got was some serious social commentary and some heart-wrenching moments. This is not my first go-’round with the Civil War, I’ve read it numerous times, including the hundreds of issues tying the storylines all together. There’s a lot going on outside of just the 7-issue “Civil War” series.

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It’s like this:

a team of two-bit superhero younglings called the New Warriors have a reality show with plummeting ratings. In an attempt to boost them, they decide to raid a house where they know some big-time supervillains live. One of the villains, Nitro, has a unique power: he can freakin’ explode. Like, literally explode. SO, when the battle leads one of the New Warriors and Nitro next to an elementary school, things get out of hand. Very, very fast.

600 people, including 60 children, are wiped out in the blink of an eye. Heroes from every walk assemble to help with cleanup – X-Men, Avengers, the Fantastic Four – but the damage has been done. People are dead, and this time it’s not going to be taken in stride.

As a result of the incident involving the New Warriors, the U.S. government passes the Superhuman Registration Act, an act that requires any and all superpowered beings in the U.S. to register their identity with the government. Some, like Tony Stark (Iron Man) believe that it is best to accept the act and cooperate, lest the government take more draconian methods against the superpowered folk. Others, like Captain America, view the act as a travesty to the Constitution and a trampling of (super)human rights. When S.H.I.E.LD makes the mistake of trying to bring Cap in against his will, the powder-keg is ignited. Cap assembles a resistance to fight the act and continue operating as superheroes underground while Iron Man is enlisted by the U.S. government to bring Cap and his resistance in.

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The issues (comic pun):

So, now our favorite heroes are at each other’s throats. But this is Marvel, dammit. Things get really crazy, really quickly.

  • constiutional rights: Iron Man puts together a task force headed up by War Machine that hunts down superpowered beings, they are then given a choice: register or be imprisoned. Imprisoned as in “thrown in an inter-dimensional prison that nullifies your powers where we will keep you forever without due process”
  • loyalty to friends / family: At the start of the Civil War, Spidey is Iron Man’s go-to guy. Tony Stark fills the missing void of a father that Peter Parker never had, but if Peter reveals his identity to the public, will his family be safe? And what about his loyalty to his country? What would Cap do in a time like this..?
  • conspiracy: Some readers will notice a lack of The Hulk in the Civil War.. that’s because shortly before he was jettisoned into space by Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, Professor Xavier, and a tribunal of superheroes called… wait for it… THE ILLUMINATI. Not only this, but everyone’s favorite Aryan thundergod, Thor, shows up, but he doesn’t seem quite himself.. he’s much more violent. Psychopathic, even..
  • betrayal:  Daredevil refers to Tony Stark as a “Judas” to his people. Several heroes (and villains, even) have to grapple with whose side are they on? Have they made the right decisions? That being said, there are spies everywhere, and telling where one’s loyalty lies isn’t as easy as it used to be.
  • pushing the limits: Desperate times call for desperate measures. For both sides, that means making deals with the devil and enlisting the help of supervillains who have just as much at stake as the heroes do. That being said, the villains have motives of their own..
  • neutrality: By this time, the mutant population of the world has been wittled down to dangerously low numbers – when called on by both sides, the X-Men choose to stay out of the conflict. But how long can one sit back while the world falls apart around them?
  • death: Surely legions of people with godlike poweres can’t go toe-to-toe without someone getting hurt, but what happens when it goes too far? What happens when one brother spills the blood of another? What kind of effect does that have on the people around them?

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The Verdict:

If you enjoyed any of the movies (Thor, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, etc.), the Civil War is definitely a good starting place for you.

For all of you fans of The Avengers, that teased Cap VS. Iron Man fist fight that seems to be building throughout the movie does indeed come to fruition here. In fact, it’s practically a battle royal for half of the series. All of your favorites are here: Thor, Daredevil, Spidey, Wolverine, the Fantastic Four, Avengers past and present. Superhero fights are cool on general principle, but there’s much more going on here. The costumes might be gaudy and flashy, but the people underneath them are real. Well, not real, but you get what I mean. They have personalities, they have regrets, they have families, and they bleed the same as normal people do.

Boy, do they bleed.

I’ll understand if some of you still scoff at the idea of picking up one of these books. Or if you pick it up, thumb through it, and remain confused throughout the duration of the reading. But that’s the nature of the beast.. you have to start somewhere. Just like someone who reads The Hunger Games will want to read Catching Fire and Mockingjay (except for maybe Jacob since it was spoiled for him), someone who picks up and gets into a comic book story arc will want to know more. Why did the Hulk get launched into space? Where is he now? And will he ever be back? Luckily for the comic book medium, it has made its transition into the digital age, so you no longer have to fret about the fact that we probably live a good 100 miles in every direction from any place that sells comics. For those of you who may be interested, a quick trip over to Marvel Digital Comics will yield unlimited results. Thousands of free-to-read issues, issues with every possible character you could want, and issues from nearly every time period. For those of you uninterested in reading, well, the next Avengers movie is slated for 2015. See you then!

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Excelsior!

I am part of a rare breed.
That is, I am part of the breed that saw The Hunger Games in theaters far before I had ever picked up any of the three books.. come to think of it, as of right now, I’ve only read the first one. That being said, I feel like having seen the film before reading the book gave me a bit of insight into the book I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I know that might seem backwards to some, but it’s true. The same could be said about Pride & Prejudice (the one with Keira Knightley, that is), Stephen King’s IT, and the slew of comic book movies that have come out in the last few years. I’m not one of those purists who thinks that a movie based on a film immediately blows. I feel like they feed off of each other if anything.

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For example: throughout the duration of the film, Jennifer Lawrence’s deadpan portrayal of Katniss irritated me. I could not stand the whole stoic, non-feeling protagonist thing. I viewed it as poor acting. After reading the book and understanding that the deadpan-ness is actually part of her personality, and a technique to help her survive in the games, it made much more sense. Some of the finer details in the book are lost in the film due to a lack of narration on Katniss’s part, obviously.

While I did enjoy the movie, I had problems with some of the liberties (well, maybe a lot of them) that Hollywood took with THG. The difference in graphic content between book and movie kind of bugged me. While someone getting their head smashed in with a rock is by no means pretty, nor PG-13 (well, I think it is, but I digress), replacing that with someone accidentally having their neck snapped by a wall? That’s weak. That’s a cop-out. One other big problem I had in the film is the attempt to make Cato a sympathetic character at the end. That doesn’t happen in the book. There is no sappy villain dialogue that makes you feel for him at the end. Cato is a death factory throughout the novel; he is a cruel bastard. We’re not supposed to feel sorry for him. He gets his, and that’s the way it should be.

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President Snow’s characterization in the film is much greater than that of first novel. That much I can excuse, since they need to set the stage for him to be the big cheese of the next two films. Seneca Crane’s role in the first film to me was interesting, given the near lack of him in the novel. I suppose his behind-the-scenes roll of Gamemaster supplemented the lack of self-narration that I mentioned earlier. One of the only other things left out of the film that I felt should have been included is the scene between Peeta and Katniss on the tracks just before making it back home to District 12. That scene was emotionally tough (for me anyway), and I feel like seeing Peeta essentially have his heart squished would have made us feel for him a bit more.

Yes, the Hunger Games trilogy does have a theme of romance (just as a lot of YA reading does), but to call someone a hypocrite for liking them while slamming Twilight is absurd. In THG, the romance is necessary for characters to stay alive, and is forced by one of them (at least in the beginning). It’s not the entire focus of all of the novels and films. As I have been typing this up, I have just learned that they are splitting the film for Mockingjay into two films. This.. this tradition is getting tiresome. As much as I love The Hobbit, there is not a bone in me who doesn’t believe that splitting it into 3 separate films when it is the SHORTEST in the LotR story is money milking. That being said, on the whole I enjoyed both the film and the novel, and I do have intentions to read the others.

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Hopefully, the odds are in my favor.
Carpe Diem

When I was in the 3rd Grade, I read the first four (then the only four) Harry Potter books. By 5th Grade, I had made my way up to Tom Clancy novels, and by 7th Grade, a Stephen King book was pretty much always within my reach. Books cowered in fear at the sight of me, and I was no stranger to the librarians (in both the school and the city library). But then something happened.. something I can’t quite explain. Something that would alter my relationship with reading for years to come.

I went to High School.

Wait, what? What exactly does that mean?

It means that, in terms of Don Gallo’s article “How Classics Create an Alliterate Society”, I was part of a rare area in the middle. I didn’t absolutely hate the reading that was required of me, I didn’t have trouble connecting with the novels because the characters “weren’t like me” or because the themes were “too adult” for me (Tom Clancy in 5th Grade, people), but I was very, very much so in the category of those disinterested in the reading.. or at least most of it. The Scarlet Letter, Romeo and Juliet, Once Upon a Town… all of these nearly bored me to tears. The Scarlet Letter was melodramatic nonsense in my high school self’s opinion (and while I appreciate it now, it still is). Anything Shakespearian still busts my chops, simply because the language he is writing in is not English. It’s not. Asking us to read Shakespeare UNTRANSLATED in 2013 is like asking someone from Shakespeare’s era to try and read text-speak.

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Despite my lack of interest in these various “classic” titles, I did read them, all the while wondering just who the hell was part of the tribunal that gathers to pick the most painfully dull books to teach as “classic”. There is perhaps nothing more torturous, in my opinion, than having to read something you are plainly not interested in. High school’s method of teaching didn’t help much, just as Gallo mentions, nonsensical quizzes over trivial details in the books ensured not only that I didn’t want to read it, I didn’t care enough to keep track of details like “exactly how much time does the turtle spend on the road in The Grapes of Wrath? Round to the nearest hundredth”. That type of curriculum is choking and fosters only resentment for books. If you really want someone to be interested in a book, talk about it. I don’t mean quiz, I mean sit around and BS about the book; leave no thought unacknowledged and no question unanswered, no matter how trivial.

Gallo mentions the amount of good even 20 to 30 minutes of free reading could do in high schools, and I agree wholeheartedly. In grade / middle school, we had an “A.R.” reading program. We chose a book, read it (with allotted time in class that was usually used for the teacher to grade or wind down), and took a short quiz on it. There wasn’t any required reading, it was whatever we chose. I think the sudden shift from open fields to bleak cells is part of the reason that my relationship with reading has / had been tentative throughout and since high school. Being told what is classic, what is well written, what is good reading and what is not is definitely not my bag.

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As a teenager (which I still am), I plunged headfirst into the dark and the strange that literature had to offer. I went through Stephen King titles like candy, H.G. Wells and I become well acquainted, and I even sampled the occasional thriller by Tom Clancy or Steven Gould. The Goosebumps books from my childhood (and my earlier blog post) and the Lois Duncan novels from grade school had led me to this path, had given me a taste for the macabre and the darker side of what literature had to offer. My path had been determined. If given a choice, red definitely would be the color of my lightsaber.

As I got older and continued deeper down into the literary trenches, two pieces grabbed a significant hold of me and haven’t let go since: The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe, and The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft, both a culmination of years and years of horror films, books, and TV shows. Both deal with the dark recesses of the human mind, both drip with hopelessness and insanity, and both were exactly what I had been searching for. The writing styles, while a bit purpley in the case of Lovecraft, were perfect. The description of dank, dark catacombs beneath a manor or the bizarre geometry of a city lost to the city could not have painted a more vivid image in my mind. I had finally found my literary holy grail. Hopefully, through the duration of our time together, I can share this sinister grail with you.

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Carpe Noctem.

It’s a Literate Life We Lead

Posted: January 11, 2013 in On Articles

Kaufman’s “Living a Literate Life” is obviously an article geared towards those heading into the teaching profession, but living a literate life is really something that can benefit anyone. I don’t think there are many people who could argue (successfully) that we need more people who are illiterate. We don’t see many fat, old politicians banging on their podiums and clammoring for less books for the children.. at least not yet. I suppose the question of what counts as a “literate life” is one with a bit of an unclear answer; is the high school student who begrudgingly reads The Scarlet Letter because he has to leading a literate life? This is an issue I myself had to deal with in High School. I loved reading to death, but not being able to choose what I read really turned me off of it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I had to read The Scarlet Letter and The Grapes of Wrath, but for some reason, it wasn’t as easy to just pick up a book and go for me after that. I felt like I didn’t have the time. If not for my major, I still wouldn’t. I’m not sure why.

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What about the weekly blogger who types up film reviews every Friday? Is she leadng a literate life? Does reading things like popular magazines or compressed news articles on a website count as literacy? At the beginning of many of my classes, I’ve been asked just what exactly is literature, and I came to the conclusion that literature is written work that expresses a truth. That definition is up for debate. I, personally, don’t count being well read in news feeds, twitter posts, or facebook walls as literate. I think leading a literate life means reading on your own accord, and throwing the occasional writing in there. Be you interested in novels, comic books, or even Dr. Seuss books, I consider that part of the path to literacy. My love for both literacy (and the horror genre, for that matter) was nurtured early on. When I was just a boy, around four or five, my mom would read to me every night before I went to bed. Usually from one out of a bookcase full of Goosebumps books (at my own request, mind you). But even before I went to my first day of Kindergarten, she had me fluently reading and being able to spell on my own. Neither of us knew it then, but she was setting me on a path that would consist of a lifelong passion for reading and writing, one that culminated in my arrival here at Chadron.

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The area from Kaufman’s article where I’m definitely the weakest is the one where he discusses facing our difficulties with our own writing. I am my worst critic in everything I do. Damn near nothing is good enough to present to people, it’s a wonder I write for the paper. My dilemma is that I love to read short fiction (horror in particular), but I’m not brave enough to write it. I don’t think anything I can churn out would be good enough to present. I’m afraid I can’t do writing the justice that it deserves, and so I don’t pursue it as I should. Ultimately, I’m afraid to fail. But if I don’t dare to fail, I can’t improve. The area where I would be the strongest from Kaufman’s article is in living a life that I’m passionate about. You should see the looks and snotty questions I get when I tell people I’m a literature major: “What are you going to do with a degree in that?” I am pursuing literature out of a passion for reading and writing, not for the sake of a job. I know a man with a degree in zoology who works construction. Having a masters degree in today’s world is considered “over-qualified” to be anything but a teacher. Worrying about what my job will be 3 years from now is something I don’t have time for. I’d much rather be reading.

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For developing my literate life this semester, I plan to cut out the excuses I have been making for myself. No more “I don’t have time to read or write what I would like to”, and no more “this won’t be good enough”. I’m going to push myself: I’m going to read the books I’ve been making a point to read for years but have never made the time for (in between reading for American and British lit).

Excelsior!