One of the things I loved about teaching was the energy required to keep a class attentive, on task, and not bored. And the reciprocal energizing thrill of watching them catch on fire. Because a room full of teenagers who are engaged and excited about what they are doing is the most fun thing in the world. And of course I loved having a captive audience, so to speak…. for stories, and tales from my childhood and very bad jokes. Especially junior classes, like grade nines. I always loved my grade nines. And their groans at my bad jokes.
My all time favourite.
Me: What did the literary chicken say when he crossed the road? Class (rolling eyes): We don’t know Ms Burpee. What DID he say? Me: Well…. (Tucking my hands under my arms and flapping to simulate wing action.)…Where did I put my book, book, book?
Class: Groan. Followed by major eye rolling.
Sigh. I miss those jokes. So when Hubby asked me yesterday what I was writing my blog post about, I flapped my arms and said, “Book, book, books.” I must say a seriously major eye roll followed that line.
So, book, book, books. I read a few books this summer. Some that I mentioned in earlier posts that I was going to read. Like Paula McLain’s latest novel, Circling the Sun. I enjoyed McLain’s fictionalized take on Beryl Markham’s life, although maybe not as much as I did The Paris Wife. McLain’s prose is spectacular, her use of imagery evocative and moving. I wasn’t surprised to find out that she travelled to Africa when she was writing this book. No one could describe the sunrises, the exact look of the mountains in the far distance, or the flash of a bird’s wing so confidently without having seen them in person. I adore McLain’s writing. And I loved her ‘character’, Beryl Markham. I did find that the plot faltered a bit in the middle. Perhaps one too many tales of unwinnable horses winning races? I can’t remember exactly where it was in the book that made me want to give up on it. But in the end, I’m very glad I didn’t. Have a look at this review of McLain’s novel by Alexandra Fuller from the The New York Times. I may not agree with Fuller’s take on either of McLain’s books, but her review makes for entertaining reading. It’s very witty and acerbic. And interesting considering that Fuller herself wrote three memoirs of Africa.
And speaking of memoirs, at the moment I’m reading Markham’s own account of her life, West with the Night. Now this one is a bit of a slog. It’s less a narrative than a semi-chronological series of vignettes about her life.
There’s no question that Markham’s writing is beautiful. And her descriptions of those things she loves, Kenya, horses, flying, are poetic.
There is a feeling of absolute finality about the end of a flight through darkness. The whole scheme of things with which you have lived acutely, during hours of roaring sound in an element altogether detached from the world, ceases abruptly. The plane noses ground-ward, the wings strain to the firmer cushion of earthbound air, wheels touch, and the engine sighs into silence. The dream of flight is suddenly gone before the mundane realities of growing grass and swirling dust, the slow plodding of men and the enduring patience of rooted trees.
But the problem with poetic prose is that one can get too much of a good thing. Markham’s memoir renders every action and each description in an impassioned and reverent tone, too infused with the sombre tones and heightened emotion of heroic mythology for my taste. And this can be a bit wearying for the reader. If her book were a film, every scene would be in soft focus with music that wound up to a crescendo. Phew. After a few chapters I needed a rest.
|Members of the Women’s Land Army from around the UK, 1943. source|