I kept that in mind when J. over at Thinking About presented me with the Reader Appreciation Award, which came with the task of a meme. Longtime readers here at the Dept. know that I traditionally eschew memes, but for dear J., I decided to emulate DD-L. (Look what it's done for his career.)
::Where do you do most of your writing/blogging? In my huge leather armchair in the livingroom. Usually, a cat is curled up on the backrest behind my head, snoring.
::What books were your childhood favourites? As a very little girl, I loved when my mother would read aloud the Little Golden Books The Poky Little Puppy and The Color Kittens. I learned to read years before going to kindergarten and soon moved on to the Little House series, Beezus and Ramona, Encyclopedia Brown, and the Rupert Piper collections, all of which I loved. I looked forward to our weekly trips to the tiny storefront library and its librarian, Miss Mamie, who not only waived the eight book limit for me, but also introduced me to so many wonderful books. My big sister Patti loaned me her Nancy Drews, and I collected Trixie Belden mysteries. My usual punishment back then was, "Go sit in that chair...AND NO BOOK!"
:: Who is your favorite fictional character? This is, for any teacher of literature, I’m sure, like asking which child we love best. I thought about this question for such a long time! Because I know them so thoroughly and intimately, it’s natural that I should choose a character from one of the works that I taught for so very many years. How can I not choose Jay Gatsby, who remade himself for love? Who believed wholeheartedly that you can, indeed, repeat the past if your objective is the love of your life? Who can wear a pink suit, call everyone Old Sport, yet still be shy enough to be afraid of a tea party?
And the flawed yet righteous John Proctor, who speaks so forthrightly and has such command of any space he occupies, but suffers mightily from a guilty conscience. He is a favourite of mine as well. This is a Puritan man who has fallen away from his God so precipitously, yet he projects his sin and guilt upon his wife, who is the very paragon of Salem virtue. His journey back to goodness is heartbreaking and human, and he shows that the better angels of our nature can win out.
“The better angels of our nature”…I stole that from President Lincoln, you know. And it reminds me of yet another fictional character whom I love, Atticus Finch. I used To Kill a Mockingbird as a parenting manual. Atticus Finch taught me to raise my kids by appealing to their humanity and with the confidence that ultimately, their better nature would assert itself and they would do the right thing. Did they make mistakes? Everyone does. But they never did the cruel or criminal thing.
Oh, I could go on and on because I love them all: Hester Prynne, Scout Finch, Santiago…. And yes, I miss them on the most passionate level because I don’t talk about them anymore. They don't live for me as they used to. But my all-time favourite is Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye.
I love Holden because he cannot love himself. He wants so many things that should be so easy to get, but Holden can’t have any of them. He wants his home, his family, love, and he wants his brother Allie back. He wants to belong to someone or something so badly, yet he craves individuality. He identifies with, of all things, ducks on a frozen pond; he worries where they will go when their home ices over. Will someone come and take care of them? He misses his dead brother Allie, but he can’t visit his grave because it’s surrounded “by dead guys”, and he feels terrible when it rains and all the mourners can seek shelter in their cars and later, nice warm restaurants for dinner. He is overcome by guilt, knowing that his mother is still nervous and ill from Allie’s death, and now she has to deal with him getting kicked out of yet another prep school. Through it all, Holden is by turns funny and bitter, but all the while, he is falling apart. And searching, hunting for what and who he needs. The mother in me hurts for Holden, and I want to take him home and heal him. His needs are so simple and so urgent, and they have been so terribly ignored.
::What is your favorite time of day and why? I love the mornings between 7:30 and 9:00. It’s my coffee and newspaper and online time now instead of hall patrol and first and second period. Rather than being frenetic and time-conscious, it's relaxed, quiet, and a daily affirmation of my retirement.
::Have you ever Googled yourself and been surprised at what you’ve found? Yes, especially after the 2008 AP story broke about my other blog, The Brian Williams Tie Report Archives. Now, not so much is new out there.
::Who would play you in a movie of your life? My whole life? Lots of people used to say I looked like Julia Louis-Dreyfuss during her Elaine days. Now? Maybe someone who knows me can cast it. I don't really know who I look like.
The rest of the questions are not terribly enlightening, so in their stead, I'm offering The Major Award itself, designed and pasted up by me. J., make sure you copy and paste it proudly at your site. I've already done so. And tell your recipients to Come And Get It.
I share this Award with all of you. As Sally Field said, "I can't deny the fact that you like me; right now you like me." And I like you right back.