Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What I've been reading

The Peabody Sisters: 3 Women Who Ignited American Romanticism
Megan Marshall
Really 3 biographies for the price of one, since each of these women (Elizabeth, Mary, Sophia) was fascinatinng in her own right - they were artists, writers, pre-feminist-movement femininsts, educators, friends, lovers, travellers, and more. The book mostly left me hungry to know much much much more about the early-to-mid 1800's in New England, and about the men who were the sisters' friends and mentors. One married Horace Mann! One married Nathaniel Hawthorne! One was great friends with Bronson Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson! It leaves me wondering how I could have graduated from a liberal arts college with a double major in History and English knowing so little about those guys - or the women who inspired them.

You'll really love this book, though, RevGals, because the PASTORS are such ROCK STARS. These women walk 12 miles in scorching heat to see their favorite preacher. They swoon when he speaks. In this era in which religious figures are mostly dispensible, if not a little laughable, (as they are at least out here in the heathen Pacific Northwest) it was really inspiring to remember that at one time they (we?) had been respected and maybe even valuable community citizens.

What NOT to Expect: A Meditation on the Spirituality of Parenting
Keith W. Frome
I bought this on a whim at Cokesbury, since the first line on the back marketing copy was so succinctly true.
"The one experience all of us parents share is surprise."
I'm not sure about how the book hangs together, since I'm only 54 pages into it, but the chapter on PLAY has totally transformed how I interact with my son. Frome first debunks the common education system adage that "play is the work of childhood" - a concept that has always gotten under my skin, although I never knew why, until I read:
Our obsession with making work into play disprepects play and reduces it to the instrumental purposes of work. It also doesnt teach our children to be tolerant of drudgery, which is a fact of any life. To say that play is work is almost to apologize for play - "see, play really does accomplish something."

Instead, he says, play is prayer. Observe a child at play - the child kneels, the child is totally in the present and totally concentrating on what s/he is doing, the child's mind/body/spirit are all completely engaged.
Way back when I first started reading blogs, I remember Rachelle saying something about how she was bad at playing with her kids, which made me both shocked and relieved, since I always thought we should WANT to play with our kids, but I felt bad at that too. But if, when we're building legos, Eli and I are really connecting with God together - the God that lives abundantly in our creative impulses - then I'm TOTALLY into that. I've been enjoying Eli a lot more the last week or so, and I think this awareness is why. I'm looking forward to more insights and ideas!

Christ the Lord Out of Egypt
Anne Rice
Before I started, I read her "why I wrote this" essay in the back, which I found fascinating if a bit, well, cranky and defensive. I was moved by her obvious passion for the subject.
Given that, and given how moving the real deal is, it's kind of astonishing how both boring and confusing this book is.
There's a bunch of characters, but they are all alike (Anne! Take a lesson from George RR and give everyone a distinguishing limp or scar - or at the very least a banner with their logo on it - so we can tell them apart!) and the big shocker is not a surprise to anyone who knows the story already.
I'm a few chapters in, and I think I'm giving up on it, but I welcome encouragement to keep going if it gets better later.

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