Monday, April 21, 2008

School, oh, how I miss you!

[Warning: This is a long post as I reminisce about days gone by, while trying to drum up interest in my new idea. So, if you don't have the time, just scroll down about 2/3rds of the way and begin reading at "Here's my plan."]

Those of you who know me, might find the title of this post a little puzzling, because I complained about going to school the entire time I was in it (which means the entire time you’ve known me seeing as I was in school for about 50 years (at least it felt like 50, but I guess it was more like 27, which is still an incredibly long time and makes me feel like an old lady…)).

While I was in school, I was miserable. The exams, the professors, the students, the assignments, etc., I hated the whole lot of it. But, there was one thing I loved: good discussions!

Sometimes, (rarely, I’ll admit), I would be in a class and a conversation would start about whatever book/essay/short story/poem we were reading. Time would fly by as tons of interpretations and ideas were discussed. It was in these moments when I really learned, when my mind would begin to make connections between the symbolism in the novel and my own life, when something written by a stranger seemed like it was written for me.

These were powerful, life changing moments. And, I’ve missed having them.

It’s almost been a year since I stopped going to school, and it’s been nice. I’ve felt like I’ve been on vacation. To be able to leave work, go directly home, and do anything I’ve wanted for the remainder of the evening has been a treat.

I’ve read. I’ve composed songs on my guitar (don’t laugh). I’ve written a book and numerous poems. I’ve painted. (I’m going to finish your painting, Katie. I promise.) I’ve gone out with friends. Yes, I’ve had a glorious time.

But, I’ve missed having literary discussions. I’ve missed challenging myself.

So, I’ve decided to do something about it: I’m starting a literature group.

What’s a literature group, you ask? Is it like a book group? Well, sort of.

Let me explain…

In a book group, everyone decides on a book, reads it (at least most do), and then gets together to talk about it. But, they usually get side-tracked with other fun things to talk about and the next thing you know, the entire evening has gone by and you’ve barely even mentioned the title. Book groups are really fun, but not always a serious discussion about the novel.

A literature group differs in that way. It’s still supposed to be fun, but it’s far more focused on the intricacies of the chosen book. In this type of group you will talk about the symbolism, the structure, the tone, the character development, etc. This group is all about the details.

And this is the kind of group I want to start.

Now, I know by saying this, just about everyone reading said a loud “Ugh, I don’t want to be a part of that kind of group. It sounds boring and a lot of work.” Let me respond to that by saying “I promise it won’t be!”

You also might be thinking that you don’t want to be in that kind of group because you’re not the “literary” type. To that I say “Bah Humbug!” I’m not looking for English majors, or big readers, or deep thinkers, or any specific kind of person. (And, anyhow, you’d be surprised at how the right questions can prompt a whole flurry of thought.)

I’m looking for people who can read and can talk. So, that includes you!!

Here’s my plan. I have a book that’s all about reading. (You know how I love to read about reading.), and in it, the author has organized a chronological reading list in 5 areas (Novel/Autobiography and Memoir/ Histories and Politics/ Dramas and plays/ poetry).

I’m going to start with the Novel section, and work my way through the list. A lot of them I have already read (so, those I’ll just refresh myself on) and some I’ve never attempted. I was going to do this on my own (and still will), but then I thought I’d open it up to all of you in case some else might be interested.

And, hence, the Literature Group!

Now, this may not be your cup of tea. And I completely understand that. I’m a very systematic person, so I like things chronologically organized. I like analyzing what I’m reading. I like heated discussions about tone or symbolism or characters. And you may not. That’s okay. I’m not going to think any less of you if you’re not interested at all.

Also, you might have other things on your plate and the last thing you need is another assignment. Heaven knows all the things I had to turn down because I was so swamped with life.

But, if you are interested, and want to challenge yourself (and help me do the same) let me know!

I’m open to how we do this. We could meet in person every month, or we could use email. (Or both). I don’t even care if I don’t know you. This offer is open to strangers!

Or people who read my blog, but have never commented before.

Or, my grandma! (Hi, grandma!)

And just to give you an idea of what I’m going to be reading and discussing (even by myself), here’s the list of novels:

Don Quixote
The Pilgrim’s Progress
Gulliver’s Travels
Pride and Prejudice
Oliver Twist
Jane Eyre
The Scarlet Letter
Uncle tom’s Cabin
Madame Bovary
Crime and Punishment
Anna Karenina
The Return of the Native
The Portrait of a Lady
Huckleberry Finn
The Red Badge of Courage
Heart of Darkness
The House of Mirth
The Great Gatsby
Mrs. Dalloway
The Trial
Native Son
The Stranger
Invisible Man
Seize the Day
One Hundred Years of Solitude
If on a winter’s night a traveler
Song of Solomon
White Noise

Now, I bet a lot of those you’ve already read, or have always wanted to read but have never gotten around to it.

So, think about it. But, no pressure, though.

Really, I’m fine doing it on my own. After all, I have my family I can bombard with my thoughts.

They’re used to it!!


Mr. Hall said...

Awesome Liz! Count me in--I'm glad to be the first to comment on such a great idea. :)
Of course, I won't be able to make it to every one (schedules will certainly keep me from reading some of the works), but I will be glad to make it to the ones that I can. Let me know when and where.

Amanda said...

I am assuming by your list of books and their order, that the book about reading you have is The Well-Educated Mind. I picked it up randomly at the library a few months ago and thought 'this is just what I need.' I bought Don Quixote and have started, but have gotten tempted away by other books.
In fact, I was thinking as I was reading both Don Quixote and the book about reading, that I wished you were reading it too, so we could discuss. I am not so much of a ponderer, but I aspire.
Bring it on.
I of course won't be able to attend the up close and personal one, but would love to do it via internet.
Would you make up a little syllabus and reading schedule? :)

Ms. Liz said...

yeah -
two words: Where? and When?

Andrea said...

Liz, after reading this post I had a dream about you last night. I came to visit you and you told me you were done with school. Then you informed me that you were changing your name to Maggie. I know, I have no idea where that one came from either!

Gina said...

I'm attempting to read Don Quijote (whom I lovingly refer to as DQ) in the original Spanish. Mind you..I have a lot of helps, but I'm loving it. I can chime in every once in a while on that.

I'm also working on Les Miserables. Love, love, love it.

Rachel said...

I'm in!!!! Are we starting with Don Quixote? I'll pick it up at the library today. Oh wait, I own it. Bonus!

I really miss classroom discussion as well. I've read several books this year that I wished I had read for a class so I could talk about it.

Amanda said...

Gina, Spanish, really? That is very brave! Kudos! I don't actually give out Kudos too often (the compliment or the granola bar) so you are really something.
P.S. do they sell Kudos bars anymore?

Liz W. said...

Yay for all the responses!!

(And, Amanda, that's the book! Just one of many I've purchased over the years. I really need a 12-step program to break my addiction on reading books about reading...)

Heather said...

WOW--I love your idea!!! It sounds like a lot of fun, and educational too. I'm sure you know my about my strange new desire to be literature-smart, so thanks for the help/encouragement!

Anonymous said...

Awesome plan my lady! You're the perfect person to spear-head it. You need a powdered wig and a Parliamant gown for the gatherings.:)