In the High Peaks

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Summer Reading on Its Way!

My summer reading will commence late next week, on and around Friday, May 6th, because classes end Thursday, May 5th. Yes, I'll still have final drafts of research papers and final exam essays to grade, but my time-consuming commute will be over and time in general will free up a bit; enough at least to permit some real reading.

I want to escape most of all, so I want my first titles to encourage me to travel far, far beyond academia. I'll be thinking this week about which titles I want to gobble up first.

Yes, postwar Germany, the immediate aftermath of World War II, is a recurring interest for me. And, when I can, I'll continue my research in this area.

I'm hoping to audit a class in Children's Literature in late May and June at the college. A reknowned specialist is teaching the course, and as I am slated to teach it upon the retirement of the professor currently teaching it, I'm auditing to observe how college students respond to an immersion in Children's and YA Lit. It will consume me two days a week--from around 8am to 3pm. And, just think, I won't have any papers to grade. I'll be able to read as much children's lit as I can swallow and that's it! Not a bad schedule at all. And my mileage will be tax deductible.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Behind the Times

As it seems now, I will be free all May, June, July, and August, which is more time off than I expected and wanted. A higher than normal summer-term enrollment might change my schedule, but as always, that will be a last-minute or a last-second development, and I'm not counting on it.

So, do I ever want to read, read, read! This reading wave will be excellent for the blog, which has been a shambles for months.

I may have mentioned this promising scenario already, but I have been dreaming all winter of sunny, sandy beaches along beautiful Adirondack lake shores, where I will tote a beach chair, my cooler of iced tea and lemonade, and my books. And I must not forget, polarized lenses and a wide-brimmed hat. Very cool. I can't wait for this sedentary sporting event. Maybe they'll start showing beach reading events on ESPN! I'd be one to watch, anyway.

My friends all say they absolutely cannot picture me lounging on a beach. (This, because I love mountain hiking, bicycling, birding, paddling, and swimming.) But I've told them, just wait and watch me become a big, fat slug on the beach.

Oh, books I'm reading now? I'm more than halfway through An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P.D. James, which is primed and loaded with setting and atmospheric details. If James were writing today, her editors would discourage her from including such detailed descriptions. But I love them, knowing that they're not the fashion today, and thank goodness, we can retreat to an earlier era (in this case, 1977) and immerse ourselves in setting.

I'm not optimistic about any reading happening this weekend. Oh, I must grade dozens of huge research papers by Monday. My prayer? Please, don't plagiarize, dear students of mine. Each plagiarized paper requires hours of a teacher's time searching online for THE PLAGIARIZED SOURCE(S).

Happy spring, wherever you may be, readers. Please drop a line and let me know how this spring is treating you!

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Brief Post

My first-year students are going crazy as they do at this end point in the semester. "How do you expect us to finish our research paper and then a week later write an essay for a final exam?"

It's a difficult transition from high school to college, no doubt. I find it exceedingly stressful, dealing with their angst. "Welcome to college, folks."

And so, stress in hand, I'm on to another P.D. James novel. I've picked up An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, a Cordelia Gray mystery. The only problem is, I want to buy a complete set of all her books, so what am I doing with one from the library? No, I don't want a Kindle or a Nook version. Nice paperbacks are fine, though I'd love vintage hardcovers. I'm so happy that I haven't read many of her books. I have read her most recent novels, The Murder Room, The Private Patient, and The Lighthouse, but it's her earlier works I've missed.

I finished The Perfect Reader; a strange read for me. I should have tossed it out after 75 pages, but out of inertia, I kept reading. And, you know, the final third of the book was quite worthwhile. But don't you read it, the first two-thirds are not worth the trouble. Pouncey does not create a heroine that anyone can sympathize with. I felt no empathy for her whatsoever until the last third of the book, which I consider a major failing. I'm sorry I bothered you with it. How did it get published????

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Reading Like Mad

Well, that was yesterday. I was too sick to drive, too sick to teach, and I called in--sick. I'm allowed one paid sick day per semester.

I stayed in bed, and once the waves of nausea passed, I read and read. How peaceful, how restful it is to pass hours on a rainy sick day in bed! The rain pattered on the roof all day, keeping me company. It was so restorative that I turned out to be well enough today to go to school and teach. A wonderful teaching day, as it turned out to be.

Today I visited the library before classes and picked up an array of books to calm me this weekend.

I'm very happy to say that I have an early P.D. James mystery on tap: An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, a Cordelia Gray mystery, published back in 1977.

Then I have another book I discovered that has me all curious from head to toe: Perfect Reader by Maggie Pouncey, published in 2010.

My only problem: I don't have an audiobook right now for my commute. I'll need to work on that one.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Books--in a Different Genre

I'm near the end of Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James; oh, how I've loved it! But the time seems to have come for reading in a completely different genre from my usual reportage.

I urge readers to skip over the following paragraph unless they want to be bored out of their skulls:
I've been delving back to my interest in Young Adult and Children's literature. This reawakening is based on my wish to rekindle my awareness of these genres AND the fact that it's conceivable I may be teaching a course in Children's and YA Lit in the fall. I'm saying maybe, might, possibly, because the course may be assigned to another professor. But I have had a lifetime of involvement in both Children's and YA Literature. I would LOVE to teach this course, and although I know for a fact I have every credential needed to teach it, I am NEW, and that counts for nothing at all. Sigh. Whatever I teach next fall will be okay, but it will rankle if I am not chosen for the Children's Lit course, because I know I have much, much more experience teaching this literature to children and young adults than any other person in the department. But I know I'm lucky to be teaching at all!

I'm reading a recently published YA novel, Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz, an award-winning author and poet living and teaching in El Paso, Texas. I am finding the novel to be so beautiful, so bright, so full of the angst of young people who grow up without love and nurturing (sounds like the lives of all my students). The main character suffers from alcohol addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder, as do many of his fellow patients in a special psychiatric facility. Everything--the relationships, the insightful therapists, the young adults are so true--it is an astonishing portrayal. It's a fast read and well worth the trouble for any human who struggles and is desperate to triumph.

My second-generation Kindle is giving me fits, just as the first-generation did, yet my Barnes & Noble NookColor is a breeze, even though the Nook is sketchy in YA lit offerings. It has many children's books, however, in full color. Fun!

Spring is wanting to spring here. We still have a depth of two feet of snow in the woods, but I've taken to walking on our road. Migrating birds!! Oh, a wealth of birdsong is heaven to the ears!

Oh, dear!!! Temperatures on Monday are supposed to hit 80+ degrees at the college, and I teach in a hot, hot building, in the afternoon, with a southwestern, full-sun exposure. Ugh! No airconditioning whatsoever. Ugh! Last class is May 5, then the exam period.

If I teach this summer, it will be in buildings that have a wee bit of AC.

But, and this is a big BUT, I will only teach one course per summer session (there are two). So I'd be teaching four hours, two days a week. That's workable, I think.

I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to time for reading! Stay tuned for the May Reading Blast!