Things I'm Not Reading
Here's the thing. When your work is centered around writing and publishing, you find yourself reading things you have to read and then you start thinking about what you should read. This summer, I actually had a bit of a crisis when I realized that I didn't read so much for pleasure anymore.
I'm not sure I've corrected that.
But I consider it something to work on.
Something I recently read for pleasure (although since neoNuma Arts is all about the arts, it has some bearing on that part of my life) is the first couple of chapters of No Fixed Points by Nancy Reynolds and Malcolm McCormick. This is a history of dance in the 20th Century. It has 928 pages. I love dance, but this is mostly on my shelf as a reference book, for when I want to look up a particular dancer, to get some background on some particular choreographer. In the two years since I bought the book, that's how I've used it.
I picked it up the other night, however, because I love the characters of modern dance, especially the proto-moderns---Isadora Duncan, Loie Fuller, Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn. These are such fascinating characters to me. They had such force of personality to accomplish what they did. Oh, they were arrogant, self-important, and often bombastic in their claims. And they changed the world of dance, arguably took it out of the burlesque show and put it in the art world.
These chapters were refresher courses for me, as I've read a bit about these folks before. Maybe more than a bit. Definitely more than a bit when it comes to St. Denis and Shawn. But reading Reynolds & McCormick's retelling of familiar tales was pleasurable reading indeed.
No Fixed Points isn't only about Modern Dance, but also about ballet. It's a personal failing, but I have so little interest in ballet, so when I got to the chapters about ballet in the early 20th century, I set the book down and I haven't picked it up in a week. I'll probably get back to it---if only the chapters on the Moderns.
This summer, I plugged one of many many holes in my reading education. I finally read Willa Cather's My Antonia. This book came into vogue as high school required reading a few years after I graduated from high school and I watch high school students buy it all the time in my day job at the bookstore. I figured it was time to read it myself, especially since I had a copy on my shelves.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. Cather managed to write her characters with such warmth and care---even the ones you clearly were not meant to like---that it was pretty hard to avoid getting involved in the prairie story of immigrants. There are also a multitude of meta-textual information on my head that sometimes interfered with that involvement, most notably the much discussed sexuality of Cather. There were passages that made me stop and think, "yes, I suppose that is a lesbian point of view." Or something like that. There are also conceits of the time period, stylistic choices that would get slammed in a modern writing critique group. For instance, there's a section when Antonia is barely a background character. It seems as if Cather forgot for a moment that Antonia was the titular character. I can just imagine how that would play in an MFA thesis committee today.
But the story is engaging, really quite modern. If you've not read it, I say check it out at the library and give it a go. It's worth the time.
Speaking of what high school students have to read, I watch what they have to buy and wonder if teachers are programed to take the joy out of reading for students. I read this a couple of years ago, mostly because I had a copy on my shelf and I was seeing students buying it: A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I head young readers complain about it, how boring it was, etc. I actually rather enjoyed it, but I was reading it in my 40s, not my teens. It seems to me that the story is a bit slow moving, a bit subtle for kids raised on "explosion movies" (my dismissive term for most Hollywood fare) and video games. I wonder if teachers assign it because they have to, or because it's about teenagers and therefore should be relevant to the students . . . or what? I don't know. Surely there's more relevant books for high school students than this World War II era story of friendships in an all-boys prep school. Of course, as we are currently in a war without an end in sight, the anxiety about graduating and going to war may be relevant. But in any case, it is a book I enjoyed without seeing why anyone thought a modern high school student might. If anyone knows a teenager who actually grooved on this book, I'd love to hear from him/her.
In Other News
I've started writing these tiny, 70 word reviews for a local gay magazine called OutSmart. You can see what I've read recently by going to www.outsmartmagazine.com and clicking on "readout" (you have to scroll down quite a bit). One of the books I reviewed this month is one I Really Like A Lot. I suddenly feel like I shouldn't talk about it here, though, while the current issue of OutSmart is on the stands. In October, I'll talk more about it.
I'm starting to get information out about this Houston Writers Festival that I'm putting together for the Barnes & Noble where I work. I've started a webpage for it here: http://neonuma.com/festival.html. Check it periodically for additional information as it becomes available/confirmed.
And while you're at the neoNuma homepage, I'll point out that the calls for work page is updated with the calls I posted a couple of weeks ago. I've already gotten a few submissions (which fall under the category of things I have to read, but that's okay).
Fieldwork begins next week. It looks like an interesting group is forming. Can't wait to see what everyone will bring to show.
That should be more than plenty for tonight. More soon.