Friday, November 30, 2012

It's A Major Award!

Daniel Day-Lewis, who is doing a stunning turn as President Abraham Lincoln in the Spielberg film Lincoln, is known for craving privacy.  He does, however, make it a point to be present whenever he is nominated for an award.  When asked about it, he said that his mother, famed British actress Jill Balcon, told him that when someone is nice enough to give you an award, you should be gracious enough to show up and accept it.

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.

Some of my most faithful readers and commenters are not fellow bloggers, so this Major Award is simply symbolic for Nanceketeers like fauxprof and Nancy.  J., a Valiant Commenter Extraordinaire has already been tagged and awarded.  The Bug is a Chatty Commenter whom I deeply Appreciate, so, Bug, consider yourself Awarded.  Ortizzle, Mary G., LaFF, all of my commenters, really, can answer any or all of the questions of the meme on their sites or in comments.  You all should know by now how much I appreciate you reading here, especially those who take the time to share thoughts.  A special welcome to newest commenter Ally!

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.


  1. Anonymous11:43 AM

    [This is my second try at commenting-- hoping to make sense this time.]

    Thank you for thinking of me with this meme. However, as I'm the one who foisted it upon J at Thinking About... I feel that I've done my bit for the meme-ification of the blogosphere, so I'll pass on this opportunity.

    [Now there's a sentence.]

    Love that your favorite time of day is now what used to be your least favorite time of day. How cool is that?

  2. I love the detail that you put into your favorite character section! I'll bet you really made these books come alive for your students. :)

    And what a lovely award! Thank you for putting that together, it's great.

  3. I've gotten the "you look/act like Elaine" stuff too. I've never seen a whole episode of Seinfeld but I still take this as a compliment. I think a lot of people think all Jews look alike and that is why they mix up Elaine and me :)

  4. TeacherPatti--Elaine wasn't Jewish in the show, was she? Jerry was, but I don't think Elaine was.

    Not important.

    Thanks for commenting!

    J.@jj--Oh, you're welcome. I couldn't resist getting a little Cleveland plug in there. Did you know you can tour the actual Christmas Story house here in NEO? And you can buy a Major Award/Leg Lamp there, too. LOL.

    Thanks for the nice things you had to say about my post. It is much appreciated. I could Talk Books at a moment's notice.

    Ally--I didn't make the connection that you were Ally Bean from over at J's place. A great deal of my traffic comes from Thinking About. Glad to have you here, and pick up your Award!

  5. Nance, thanks for the kind mention, and I am proud to be a Nanceketeer. I loved your list of favorite characters, and it got me to thinking; however, I tend to think more in terms of historical personages (except for Jo March. I wanted to BE Jo March).

    James A. Garfield. What a tragic, unnecessary STUPID death, for a man who held such promise, decency and good humor.

    George VI. Long before "The King's Speech", I admired his courage and determination, especially in contrast to the shallow, selfish Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

    Top of the list, the one person in history I'd love to spend time with...Eleanor Roosevelt. If she'd been created as a work of fiction, who would have believed her?

  6. What a fun post! And I AM chatty, this is true. Although I'm feeling rather introverted after posting EVERY. STINKING. DAY. in November (the days only started to stink around the 26th - before that they were lovely).

    We had a canned food drive at work several months ago, and each department was challenged to create a work of art with their food. There were some amazing entries, but my favorite was a pirate ship made of canned food that had that leg lamp as its mast. Hilarious.

    I guess I don't mind 7:30 - 9:00 too much - I spend the 7:30 - 8:30 hour driving in to work & then I try to sneak & read my comics before 9:00.

  7. Thanks. A lot. I may give the meme a run, but in the meantime - Anne Elliot. No question.
    Um, did I spell her name right? Ex-English teachers have Standards.

  8. Mary Gilmour--You know, I had to dredge up Anne from the deepest, dustiest recesses of my Victorian Novels Class memory. Persuasion was the first book we read in that course, and I have very little recall of it. Jane Austen has a huge and devoted following, but I am not among that group. Do you like all of her books? Did you read the confic novel The Jane Austen Book Club in which the characters each echo Austen's? Thanks for commenting, and don't forget to pick up your Major Award!

    The Bug--Don't forget your Award. And you have an HOUR to and from work? How horrid. I had 2 and a half minutes, and believe me, I knew how lucky I was. An hour seems like taking a car trip EVERY DAY. I cannot imagine. In order to be worth it, there would have to be an ice cream stand on the way or something. LOL.

    fauxprof--Oh, Little Women! How I adored that book! And when I found out that Little Men existed, I almost lost it from excitement. It was impossible to have a favourite in that book, for me, because they were all so wonderful to me as I read it. Coincidentally, one of the film treatments was on last night--the June Allyson/Peter Lawford/Elizabeth Taylor version. Not too terrible, although June Allyson makes me want to punch someone in everything she does. She overacts something fierce, and is so broad and literal in all her roles. But we stopped watching after an hour because Oprah (ugh) was interviewing DD-L & Spielberg.

    (That was so painful, btw.)

  9. faux--I forgot to thank you for your very kind words. They are, sincerely, much appreciated.

    On my now defunct blog, Stuff On Our List, which I co-wrote for a few years with my eldest son,Jared, I had a series of posts called The Dinner Party. I chose a theme and invited guests from different walks of life, then asked commenters to do the same.

    One was the Dead Dinner Party. My guests were Mary Lincoln, President Lincoln, Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde, and Cleopatra. You can read about it here.

    Who would you have invited?

  10. Oh, tough one, but fun! Let's start with formidable ladies. Eleanor Roosevelt, of course. She's always number one on my guest list. Add another Eleanor--of Acquitaine, this time. You'll forgive me if she looks and sounds more than a bit like Katharine Hepburn. Abigail Adams could more than hold her own at this table.

    For the gentlemen: Charles Dickens, a host of characters in himself; and finally, on of my greatest personal heroes, Dr Jonas Salk.

    Do you think they'll like my lasagna? I blend chopped spinach and a touch of nutmeg in the ricotta.

  11. Yep - it's 40 miles each way, but mostly through the country. Very scenic. I go through a lot of audio books! (Oh, and it's really more like 50 minutes each way, not an hour - I like to Dramatize.)

    I'll have to consider my award very carefully. And I might use some of those questions you skipped from J's site. Because my "literary" answers will be a lot thinner than yours :)

  12. Many thanks for the kind mention of me among your faithful readers. As I mentioned in a previous comment on another post, there are really so few people around who have an actual working brain combined with the ability to write well. This blog is definitely run by one such person and that is the reason I keep coming back. Funny, snarky, insightful, thought-provoking, and so much more. Thank you for continuing to make the blogosphere enjoyable.

    My answers to some of the meme questions:

    I didn't really read much as a kid, as I was just an unhappy child and don't remember a lot of things from when I was growing up. Mostly I just couldn't wait to not be a kid anymore.

    When I was a senior in high school, I discovered Sherlock Holmes. By far my most favorite fictional character. Set in the the most amazing city in the most amazing country and in a time that spoke to me like I was there. There wasn't always complete consistency in every detail, but Doyle was a master storyteller, and his people and places come alive as you read the stories. I have no idea how many times I've re-read the stories--they never tire in my mind.

    My favorite time of day is sunset. I am a night owl by nature, but I don't get to indulge it as much as I used to. For a long time (a long time ago) I worked nights in the hotel industry and loved it. The middle of the night is quiet and you can get so much more done with no interruptions.

    People used to say that I looked a lot like Melanie Griffith, so I guess she would be the choice to play me in the movie. If that would include me getting to hang out with Antonio Banderas, I'm good with that.

  13. LaFF-Whatever happened to Antonio? He did some voice work as a kittycat and poof! Career over. Maybe Melanie keeps the leash too tight.

    Please tell me that you have a dog named Baskerville somewhere in your lifetime. Please.

    Now you have me wondering if I've ever, ever read any of the Holmes stories, ever. I really don't think I have. Dimly I recall at one point there being one in an anthology when I had to teach jr. high, but I avoided it and taught something else. Probably I should correct this gap in my canon.

    Thank you for your continued patronage of the Dept. and for your participation in comments. Your discussions are valuable, and your flattery lovely.

    Bug--I'm a real windbag when it comes to talking books, and not so much when it comes to other sharing stuff. I look forward to reading your answers, as I do with all the things you chat about on your site. (Did you really want to know if I was ever naked in public or who I kissed way back when?)

    fauxprof--I used to teach a few of A. Adams' letters in AmerLit. As a matter of context, I would talk about her worldview and her relationship with her husband. The students were very appreciative of her sturdy self-esteem and rather anachronistic sense of women's rights/value to society, esp. when it came to the writing of the Constitution. She was another of those tough women who knew how to work her marriage.

  14. OK, my response to the award is up! I ended up not using the extra questions because I'm doing this at work & for some reason my office internet filter thinks that J. is "social networking" so I couldn't go read them again. WhatEVER. :)

  15. Where do you do most of your writing/blogging?
    Sadly, I do not have the time to blog anymore. I must content myself with commenting on blogs, and thanks for the mention!

    What books were your childhood favourites?
    So many... not wishing to be repetitive, but, to name a few: Beezus & Ramona, Little Women (etc.), Nancy Drew, Blue Willow, Anne of Green Gables, Dr. Seuss. Also Grimm's Fairy Tales, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Borrowers, Mary Poppins --- if there was magic or fantasy in it, it was magic for me. I also loved biographies of real people, oddly enough. Probably inspired initially by reading The Diary of Anne Frank. I loved going to the local public library when I was a kid, and thankfully, my mother used to take us there once a week.

    Who is your favourite fictional character?
    I really cannot single out one all-time favourite; for me, it's more a question of authors who created memorable characters that I loved, usually for their eccentricity, commonality, or a combination of both.
    From English (language) lit: Charles Dickens, Kurt Vonnegut, Anne Tyler, John Irving, Margaret Atwood, Annie Proulx. From Spanish (language) Lit: So many, but in an effort to reduce this to books your readers might be familiar with: Melquíades from 100 Years of Solitude, Don Quixote, Lazarillo de Tormes.

    What is your favourite time of day and why?
    Anytime I'm eating, sleeping, drinking a glass of wine, not grading papers or not answering emails to students whose name is "Sent from my iPhone."

  16. Oops! I inadvertently left out a couple of meme questions, to wit:
    Have you ever Googled yourself and been surprised at what you’ve found?
    Yes. The first time I did this (and someone informed me that it was called "ego-surfing", ha, ha), it came up with some pages from a few ESL books I edited, a tourist book I translated, and someone with my name who had an impressive rap sheet. Lately, using my married name, it comes up with my faculty profile page, blogs for my students, Facebook, several illustrious people who are nothing to do with me, and, horrifyingly, a page on the Texas Tribune which lists my salary as a state employee.

    Who would play you in a movie of your life?
    Nobody, since I will never be famous enough for a movie to be made of my life. Someone once told me I reminded them of Holly Hunter on Broadcast News. That probably has less to do with actual physical resemblance and more to do with the fact that this came from someone I was directing in ESL recordings for textbooks. (Weird, I know, but I see the connection.)

  17. Ortizzle--Thank you for participating. "Sent from my iPhone" must be horrifying. Can you imagine using that teensy keyboard and your thumbs as your primary mode of email transmission? It's beyond impossible. I decided the minute I got my iPhone that I would not set up email on it, and I have not wavered. To be that electronically leashed is abhorrent to me. And sending text messages is difficult enough. It takes forever.

    It continues to amaze me how similar we are in things, but I suppose I could say that about many of my readers/commenters here. Must be why we all found one another.

    I will say, however, that the allure of John Irving continues to escape me. I have tried so many times to read and enjoy him, but fail. Ditto Margaret Atwood, who I can take or leave. Oh well. We will always have Dickens and Alcott. XXOO

  18. I mostly like Atwood's short stories. There's one (can't remember the title!) with a sentiment I have never forgotten: as you get older, it's not so much a question of how well preserved your face is but rather what sort of dog you will resemble. That is so painfully true, lol.

    As for Irving: he does have too many bears overall in his novels, but... there are a couple of titles that I cherish. And, no, neither one is Garp. My faves are The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany, the former being his best one for me as far as characters you fall in love with. (Irving, of course, was a huge fan of Dickens... so maybe that's no surprise.)


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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