29 May 2007


Five years ago my list says I was reading The Hook by Donald E. Westlake. Not many writers have resume as accomplished as his. Melville's Moby Dick, which I never read in high school, was also there. Ten years ago I discovered that John Sayles wrote novels, not just screenplays. Los Gusanos was an engrossing read, filled with history, humor, tragedy and hopeless dreams. Norman MacLean's Young Men and Fire was also on the list The 1949 Mann Gulch fire in Montana changed the way smokejumpers and fire crews work today. The book is a poignant look at the individuals involved in the disaster and the combination of factors that led to the deaths of 13 firefighters. Fifteen years ago I finally made it all the way through Naked Lunch and actually 'got it.' I had attempted to read it before, and had found it bewildering. I tackled it again and this time I caught the wave and rode it all the way. It is a unique work--take a trip to the Interzone, you won't regret it. I can hardly match that with a more contrasting work: Gloria Steinem's Revolution from Within is also on my list from 15 years ago. She got her share of criticism for that best-seller. It is an obvious truth that a poor self-image leads to failure--I see it every day in my work. But how do we improve a child's view of himself? Can "self-esteem" be taught? Should it? I can say that it should be nurtured, that ultimately external sources of "self-esteem" are flimsy and don't stick, but how we go about it is as varied as the kids we work with. People aren't crops--you can't "mass-manage" them. What works for one is contraindicated for another.
a.d IV Kal.Iun.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My admiration to a truly eclectic reader, and you've kept track. That's a goal of many and attained by few, M.C.; well done. Your mention of MOBY DICK reminds me of a little game Kathy and I used to play: what are the most memorable beginnings and endings of books. I bet you have done that. I read Burroughs straight through the first time I picked him up and spent the next 10 years wondering what it was I had read. Gloria Steinem is an interesting entry; what she did for girls' self-esteem just by being on the scene was truly a watershed moment. Has it really been 10 years since MacLean's astonishing book on the Montana fire...You reminded me that some 40 years ago I finished Durell's Alexandria Quartet in one summer month, and read him with a dictionary on my lap. Keep on reading and sharing, O Thinking One. N.