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Thinking About Vacations

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Okay, this is not going to be a very coherent post, because I’ve had one hell of a morning arguing with people who were all convinced that they knew exactly what was right and true–and about something simply procedural, too–and all of whom were wrong.

And none of them were students.

That said, this is my last week of classes before the break.  There’s a finals week, and I do come in for that, but finals week is never a problem, because I don’t have to fight with anybody.  I just sit at a desk and let people bring me things.

Well, okay, I did have one kid, a couple of years ago, throw a bunch of papers at my head because I refused to accept them, since the term was essentially over.  But the only time I’ve ever had furniture thrown at me, it was during a regular class.

Anyway, I started the day rather well.  I was up early.  I got a lot of work done.  Then I turned on the television set to see what the weather was going to be like–yesterday it snowed–and found instead Obama giving his Peace Prize speech.

And it was wonderful.  Okay, I’m normally a fan on a lot of levels, but the man actually went in there and did an anti-Jimmy Carter.  I don’t mean he badmouthed Carter.  I mean he talked about what he thought the US was “justly proud” of and why he thought it might sometimes be both his moral right and moral responsibility to use the military unilaterally to defend the US and how nobody was going to defeat Al-Qaeda with negotiations, and…

It’s not that I’m in favor of war.  I’m not.  My older son has a couple of friends on active duty in the military, and the only way I can be sure they won’t come to harm is if they’re  not sent to fight, and in the present circumstances I can’t be sure of that at all.  And one of them seems to have a positive mania for going into combat as soon as possible.

Right here, if I believed in God, I’d remind myself that God takes care of fools and little children.

But here’s the thing–I’m sick to death of the endless adolescent Euro-sniff.  There were dozens of reports going in to the speech that Obama had written it himself and worked on it and revised it himself on the plane ride over, so there isn’t even the cover of speechwriters to use to explain any of this away.  And, you know, it makes me feel like I knew what I was doing when I voted for the guy.

After that I had a lot of running around to do, and even more of waiting, so I’ve been diving into an ocean of Kipling, courtesy of recommendations by Robert.  It’s Kipling short stories I’m looking at, some of which are good, some of which are mediocre, and some of which are written largely in dialect, which is something I just don’t get. 

‘Yes, yes.  I know that Twain was famous for it, but I can’t read a lot of Twain, either.  At the moment, my big frustration is with a story called “On Greenhow Hill,” which both Robert and every literary critic I’ve checked with say is one of Kipling’s all time best.  And I can’t understand it.  I read it through four or five times, and I kept getting stuck on things like “thrain”–what the hell is “thrain?” 

Okay, that’s a personal failing of mine.  The only time I’ve seen dialect done in a way I’ve both understood and admired (and the first is necessary for the second) is in the first half of the original version of Stephen King’s The Stand, where it was done entirely with slang and the rhythm of the writing, without any fancy spellings meant to imitate accents, or whatever.  Unfortunately, King later released an expanded version of The Stand, where he put back all the stuff his editor made him take out–but his editor was right, and now you have to find the original version in secondhand stores.

Anyway, lots of the stories are not written in dialect, and I’ve been having a good time with one call “The Man Who Would Be King.”

But I’m bringing up the Kipling for another reason entirely.  The copy I have is a hardcover with one of those attached ribbon bookmarks dangling from the top of the spine, and while I find this convenient enough, the cats find it absolutely fascinating.  And irresistable. 

So I’ll be sitting on the loveseat, drinking tea and minding my own business, and suddenly cats launch themselves at me and knock the book out of my hand. 

If I try to get the ribbon back, they think it’s a game, and they go for it with claws.

I don’t think I’ve ever been introduced to any piece of writing this way before, but I’ll admit that it’s done something to the way I regard Kipling’s short stories, if not the poems and other things I knew before I started this.

Whatever.  Like I said, I’m very distracted today, so I’m just going to wander off, happy in the knowledge that this is, in fact, the last day–at least for a while–that I’m going to get yelled at.

Maybe I’ll look at some web sites about Maui…

Written by janeh

December 10th, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response to 'Thinking About Vacations'

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  1. Kipling used to get beaten up a bit for writing in dialect–usually by people insisting that he must not have heard what he wrote down. (He countered nicely in THE LIGHT THAT FAILED and at least one poem.)

    But it can be a problem. My mother can’t follow a stage Irish accent, and somewhere around Geordie country I start looking at people’s chests for subtitles. I can follow, but I have to listen very carefully.

    As I recall, the narrator in “Greenhow Hill” speaks broad Yorks–Danelaw country. “Thrain” in Old Norse means “obstinate.” See how close that comes.

    robert_piepenbrink

    10 Dec 09 at 5:49 pm

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