Monday, June 29, 2009

Too maternal to be cool

I am not sure how we got into this conversation, but a few nights ago I found myself - face to face with my youngest - describing the tattoo I would like to put on my arm and shoulder.

"I'll have a big orange koi fish on my arm here, and maybe a bluebird over here."

"Really??" my four year old asked, wide eyed and incredulous at the very idea.

"Yes! Don't you think that will look pretty?"

And then from the other room, the 11 year old yelled out, "Awe, Baylie! She's just kidding you. MOMS don't get tattoos!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Warning: reader's review...

Vacation = reading for fun

In the past week, I somehow sneaked in enough reading time to finish the two latest works by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind and The Angle's Game. From the get go, especially true for TAG, it is apparent that Zafon admires Dickens. And while I am not a huge fan of Dickens (shhh...keep it a secret that the English teacher is not a fan of Dickens...I will admit that I like the social commentary and wit of Dickens but could do without a few hundred pages worth of the excessive descriptions), I enjoyed reading Zafon. Reading Zafon is like reading a tossed salad of Dickens, Poe, King, Doyle and G. Marquez with just a dash of sexual tension a la Esquivel (only the tension is not executed as well by Zafon as what is accomplished in Like Water for Chocolate).

Both TSotW and TAG are quazi-murder mysteries that take place in Barcelona at the turn of the 20th century. In both novels, the acquisition of a mysterious novel is central to the plot. While at times the tale unfolds in a Sherlock Holmesian fashion, there is plenty of poverty and sex infused with the surreal and macabre that separates Zafon's artistry from Doyle's.

Because of the (not so subtle) celebration of "story", I love the basic concept for both novels. Let's face it: this English teacher is a sucker for the celebration of the transformational powers of words and stories. But let me remind you that I am not a professional critic - I am just a reader.

According to the professionals, there are mixed reviews of Zafon's artistry, and I would have to agree with several points on both sides. For one, I must admit, especially in TSotW (the first novel in what will be a series), there are some literary cracks. Towards the end of TSotW, for example, much of the resolution is clarified in a note that is sent to the main character. After reading more than a chapter's worth of this "letter," I confess that I wondered more than once, "Either this letter is written with very tiny writing, or it is nothing short of fifty pages long. Is it even probable it could have been written by hand in the time frame given"? Wrapping up the plot in a neat little package like that, too, seems to be the easy way out. Another concern about Zafon's style, as seen in TAG, is that even though the plot is more compelling than the first of the series, some of the scenes in TAG are lost or forgotten, the parallel to Great Expectations doesn't always work, and some of the gore is over done.

Still, I can overlook a number of idiosyncrasies of an author if I am overwhelmingly drawn in by the story (even if the plot seems at times to be a bit convoluted - you can thank Dickens for that influence). True for both novels, the plot is nothing less than compelling. Also, Zafon's language is poetic - in particular, the concluding statement of almost every chapter is thought provoking and/or visually enticing.

Overall, particularly if you have diverse literary tastes, I would recommend both The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Patiently waiting.... find out if I still have a job. I already know that I've been transferred to the other high school that is on the other side of the Interstate. But, hey, at least I still have a job. For now.

Unfortunately, over the past month, my school district has been in the process of cutting almost 100 of the 550 certificated employees. Our student to teacher ratio was already 30-40 students per teacher before the cuts began. I can't imagine what the size of our classes will be with 100 fewer teachers. So the last round of cuts happened yesterday (62 teachers), and notices are going out today and Monday. I have no seniority, and, hence, I won't be surprised if I get a notice. Since I am a high school teacher, though, I have a better chance of keeping my job.

Still, the waiting is nerve wracking!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

School is out: commence relaxing

Well. That was something else. While it's only an estimate, I think I slept approximately three hours a night from June 2 to June 12. Too many papers and projects to grade, so little time.

On a positive note, Poetroad graduated with his Master's degree this past Sunday. We celebrated by running a 5k in Florida.