The Great Gatsby and the door to the Graveyard
It was spring of the first year I taught high school and I was teaching the Great Gatsby. The classroom, in front of the high school, looked out over a graveyard. We had door to the outside, both a comfort and a temptation.
By the time I taught high school, the era of school shootings had started. I often thought through my plan of action in case of an active shooter situation. If we weren’t first, we would have time to barricade the doors, pull heavy furniture across both the interior and exterior doors (which I always kept locked) but we might still have a second method of egress if the shooter was inside. In that way, the door to the graveyard was a comfort.
It was a temptation because I had a daily fantasy about opening the door and releasing my fifth period class, five of whom were in anger management, to the wild. I’m sure the door triggered the same fantasy for them.
Air and Other Stories
Written by Lauren Leja
Review by Jarad Johnson
This is a little novella of stories that has been looking at me and begging to be read since the summer, and inevitably it got passed over for one book or another. Every reader is constantly trudging through a stack of books, a pile that never gets any smaller. In any case, I am glad that I picked it up this afternoon. My first reaction upon reading it is that Leja packs more feeling and emotion into fifty pages than many authors do in a hundred. I kept coming back to the word raw when I sat here trying to figure out what I wanted to say about this little book. I can tell she’s a good writer, because I was immediately drawn into the world she created around these four stories. It was easy and effortless to be in the book, so to speak. I could feel the underlying tension of throughout the book, that of a teenager feeling adrift in the world and craving attention and finding it in strange places. When kids want attention like that, especially when they have absent parents such as in this book, they behave recklessly, and I definitely saw that in the book. (in one instance the main character allows herself to be buried alive, and remarkably survives). We get a glimpse into a mind that is searching for meaning and acceptance, and finding none, decided to create some of its own.
Julie is sharing her favorite genres with us this week, and we have unanimously decided that gardening is in fact a genre (at least on this blog, it is).
Jarad asked to talk about my favorite reading genres this week. I have a question. Are garden catalogs a genre? I’m going with yes.
Actually, I love all sorts of books, but I do tend to gravitate to certain sections of the library or bookstore. As I started to think about what kind of books I like, I also started think about why. Why am I drawn to certain stories above others? What does it say about me? I contemplate the questions what and why below.
Sometimes Jarad and Julie put down books halfway through with no intention of ever finishing them. Most of the time they don't feel bad about it.
I have a guilty secret. I’m an English literature major and I don’t always finish books. There I said it.
Sometimes I just can’t get into a book. Moby Dick and As I Lay Dying fall into this category. The first few chapters are like swimming through jello and....I’m lazy, or weak. Or cowardly. I just don’t go on. I’m willing to admit the entire history of literary criticism is against me here, willing to accept it as a character flaw on my part. But I’m getting old. There’s only so much time for so many books. Sorry Moby Dick, you crazy devil whale...I just don’t have time to swim after you for what must be like, a million pages.
The other reason I don’t finish is a bad habit of reading ahead. (Don’t judge me. It’s like a super power. I CAN SEE THE FUTURE!) 1984 was suffocating me. Depressing me. Depriving me of the will to live with its stark, interior feel...so I peeked ahead just to see if it was worth it. Needless to say, I flung the book under the bed, sadly failing my research paper, but relieved of the symptoms it caused. Am I right or wrong? I don’t know. But there you have it. Confessions of an English major.
Today Jarad is sharing his newest addiction: seeds.
I don't know about you, but I'm ready for spring. I'm ready for gardening and plants, and the end of cold and wet weather. But through the course of the winter, I bought some seeds to start in my garden this year; actually, I bought a lot of them, hence the title of this post. I bought them, five or six (or ten, whoops!) at a time. I bought herbs and perennials, flowers and vegetables, and I tried to get lots of things for bees and pollinators. I have a particular fondness for climbing vines, and I bought four of those. Some of the more interesting ones (to me at least) include a plant called Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, which grows up to eight feet tall, Agastache Navajo Sunset (a vibrant orange variety that attracts bees and butterflies), Saint John's Wort (which will look very appropriate in a cauldron I have), and the herb stinging nettle (which is often regarded as a weed but actually has lots of nutrients in it as well as antihistamine properties, and has been compared to spinach).
Here's some of our most recent reviews in case you missed them!
1. Life in the Garden- Written by Penelope Lively- Review by Jarad Johnson
2. High Static, Dead Lines- Written by Kristen Gallerneaux, Review by Roy Peak
3. A Garment of Shadows- Written by Laurie R. King, Review by Jarad Johnson
Today Jarad is sharing his 5 favorite genres of literature!
General Fiction- I realize that this is a broad category but it's one of the genres I read the most, precisely because it is so diverse and has many different subcategories within it. Some of my favorites from this category are The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and Breath, Eyes Memory by Edwidge Danticat.
Fantasy- I've loved this genre for as long as I could read,and it's probably one of the genres I've been reading the longest. Who doesn't love to be distracted and entertained by other worlds,especially with the state of this one? Some of my favorites from this genre include the Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkien, the Captive Prince trilogy by C.S Pacat, and The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian.
By T.J Klune
Review by Jarad Johnson
I have to admit, I had some reservations about reading this book. I normally wouldn’t hesitate to read a book about gay werewolves and witches, but I was worried that certain plot points would put me off. Specifically, several key characters were absent for a long stretch of time, and I as worried that the dynamics between them all would change in ways that I didn’t like. Eventually, I realized that I couldn’t continue staring at it forever (and I also needed to see what would happen) and within the first 50 pages I realized how stupid my 2-month standoff with this series was because I ended up enjoying it more than the first book, which centered around Joe and Ox and their relationship, and a whole host of other things. It was very good, and I really should review it at some point. This book, however, revolves around Gordo, although the first characters are there. When I read the first book, I quite frankly wasn’t the biggest fan of Gordo, who is the main character of this book and featured prominently in the first one, but after getting so much insight into his character I can say definitively that he is one of my favorite characters in the series. I found him to be rather unlikeable, even standoffish at first, but this installment gives greater insight into why he behaves the way he does.
Jarad and I find ourselves longing for spring, so we're devoting Fridays to gardening. Here's a garden memory.
I have had and loved many gardens, from my first one in Memphis, where my boxer dug up the plum trees and ate half my climbing roses, to the haunted hillbilly house where we didn’t need curtains in spring because the wisteria draped itself in billows from the big oak tree out front. But I had one garden that, if I’m being honest, was hard to love.
Winter Ghosts - December 11th, 2013
I drove through the dark last night and the fog was on the move, like an army of ghosts. It wasn’t a sit down, settling fog, moving in with a steady purpose. It was one of those fogs that swirled itself into a solid cloud that totally obscured the moon soaked farms on either side one minute and broke into solitary wraiths the next, each with a different mournful aspiration, uncertain as to the path down which its hopes might hide. Amusing antics, but I was in no hurry to join their ranks so it was a bit of a harrowing drive. Here’s the road; now it’s gone, a funny joke for the specters of the fog, not so funny for me.