Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Book, Book, Feet!

Book Book Feet, I couldn't resist.

It reminds me of that old child's game Duck, Duck, Geese. Any of you old enough to remember that game? Do children still play it? Or are they all inside these days in front of video games.

Yes, that's what I'm going to talk about. Not children's games of yore but two books and... although, digression ahead .....wouldn't that be fun! Get together a bunch of people, not just kids, but everyone (well, maybe not folks old enough to break a hip and end up in a wheel chair for the rest of summer, but everyone else) and have a picnic someplace green and grassy. And then play Red Rover and Captain May I? and Duck Duck Geese and Hide and Seek and Marco Polo and..... whenever my family gets together we always make a point of having a Game Night. We drag out the favorites - usually Scattergories and Taboo. This year everyone's insisted on Encore. Snacks. Sometimes even margaritas. And play and laugh and argue and snack and play some more. I think next time we get together in large enough numbers, I'm going to drag everyone to the park instead, for a Game Day! Okay, digression over.

Book #1 -

I mentioned several times reading, enjoying, and being inspired by Barbara Kingsolver's new book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I feel I have to mention it just one more itty bitty time before you all get annoyed and start throwing vegetables at me. (If you do feel the need to throw vegetables, could you through fresh ones please, so I can eat them?) Whenever I've mentioned this book to non-cyber people I have had three types of responses, two types I expected, and one I didn't.

The first response, let's call it Response A, was that they'd never heard of the book and when I would briefly described what the book was about (seriously, I was brief, one or two or twelve sentences at most!) they would smile politely and their eyes would glaze over.

The second response, which we could call Response Q but let's not confuse things and stick with the boringly predictable title of Response B, was to interupt me to say Oh yes, they'd heard of the book. It was on their list of books they wanted to read. Could they borrow my copy when I was through? or Nevermind, they wanted to buy a copy for themselves.

The last response, which we'll call Response Wha-?, was the one that surprised me. From at least half the people from whom I expected Response B, I got a negative response instead. It turns out something about the concept of the book made a lot of folks feel defensive. "Sure, Kingsolver and her family have the money to move to a farm, not gonna happen for MY family." or "I'm not wealthy enough..." or "I'm not getting paid to spend all my time to write a book..." or "I'm not perfect..." and so on. I was surprised, although in hindsight I probably shouldn't have been because I've expressed some of these same defensive comments in the context of the bigger ecological issues that are now plastering our television and written and cyber news feeds.

To all those Response Wha-? folks, let me just say this. Don't judge before you read it. Y'know all those Harry Potter haters and denouncers who tell you what the book is about and how it's evil and warping young minds towards the dark side but when questioned, admit they haven't read the books? Well, yeah. That's a bit of the same. A lot of the criticisms that these folks gave, fault they found with Kingsolver's book, were based on assumptions about what they'd find inside the cover.

It's not that I didn't share some of the same assumptions. Even as I was reading the book, I kept thinking things like "But what about my tea!" or "But what about people who don't have time or space to grow their own?" and so on. Be patient, my little grasshoppers. All your questions, or at least all of mine, were eventually answered. But most importantly, Barbara and her family (I can call you Barbara now, right? Seeing as we're now good friends?) come across as real and ordinary people. No pretentiousness, no holier-than-thou, no dietary dogma dealers.

I'll admit, my take on it might be influenced by the fact that over the years I've tried and lived most of the choices that their family did in their year of attempted locavore-ness. (Locavority? Locavoring? Oh hell, eating close to home.) I don't consider growing most of your own food or eating seasonally or being an omnivore (her take on vegetarianism is spot on to what I've been thinking for ages!) or considering the politics of food when making purchases as being dramatic or in any way extreme. If you want a food preacher, you should have known me back in my 20's! But fortunately for you, Barbara is a much kinder and gentler teacher. In the end what she seems to express is not the desire for everyone to take on the same life changing project that her family did, but encouragement for each of us to just start to think about food in different ways and make any small but critical changes that we can, to whatever degree that we can comfortably make them.

So, Responder Wha-?'s, set your apprehensions aside, and read the book. Let me know if your criticisms still hold weight after you've finished it.

Book #2 -

Not really a specific book, but a book topic. Have you heard about how UK publishers want to start puting age banding on books? I'm not sure if it's all books, or just children's books. For instance, a band might say "For ages 6-8, or "For ages 12-15". I don't know, I made those up, I'm not sure exactly how it would be worded, or what ages would be clumped together. What I do know is that many well known authors are up in arms about it and I agree.

Do we need someone else to tell us what's age appropriate for, not only our children, but for ourselves!? The parents I know all seem to have good instincts for what their children can and can't handle at any given age. For that matter, I'd go as far as to say that I believe that most children have good instincts for knowing for themselves what they should and shouldn't read. And if they dip into a novel that has material that's slightly above them, my experience, both from my own reading and from that of my kids, is that this sort of information or concept gets read over without comprehension anyway.

J K Rowling is against the age band idea. And one can't imagine a more perfect example of an author or series of books that would be impossible to categorize by age appropriateness. The Harry Potter books are beloved by eight year olds, eighteen year olds, forty eight year olds, and eighty year olds. Don't label these books "For children age 9-12".

Another author against the age banding is Philip Pullman. Pullman's trilogy, His Dark Materials, is one of my favorite series ever. I'd be hard pressed to think of these as children's books, the concepts and story line are so complex and dark and sophisticated and, well, adult. And yet because two of the main protagonists in the story are pre-adolescents, the books were published as Young Adult, against Pullman's wishes for the series.

What about many adult books that were, and are still, voraciously gobbled up by children and young adults? I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy long before adolescence (by which time I wouldn't have wasted time on fantasy books, my head being filled with more important issues such as whether a certain guy mentioned me to a mutual friend or whether a pair of jeans made my hips look big or whether be home by midnight meant leave my friend's house by midnight or walk in the door by midnight). Yes, I missed a lot of the larger issues the books addressed, but I was swept away in the adventures and was introduced to ideas more fantastical and magical than any I'd considered before. It changed the way I saw the world forever.

I did reread Tolkien as an adult, and picked up those other layers of meaning. I wouldn't have wanted someone to pull Tolkien from my young hands and say "Wait. You're not ready for these yet." I wouldn't have wanted someone to tell Joshua that Stephen King and Anne Rice and Richard Feynman were for when he was older. Joshua didn't end up with the luxury of an older age in which to tackle them. Conversely, I don't need anyone telling me that at my age I'm way past getting anything out of reading Little House on the Prairie or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Or The Giving Tree or Captain Underpants for that matter.

Readers are, by their very nature, a thoughtful group that have a better than average ability (if I may be so bold as to generalize) of selecting and analyzing their reading material. We don't need publishers to do it for us. We're not talking labels on cigarettes or over the counter drugs, for heavens sake, (although some would argue the addictive nature of the printed page), we're talking books. Qualifying books in any official, governmental way strikes me as a step towards the concept of banned books. Go stamp beef products and leave us bibliophiles alone.

Feet -

I think it was a Mother's Day gift. Maybe it was a Yule gift. I don't remember now, but for some reason hubby bought me a little gift package of salves and lotions from Burt's Bees. I'm not much of a lotion user, but I think the gardening imagery of "bees" made him think of me. Turns out, surprisingly, that I'm really getting a lot of use out of these small sample sized products. I knew they were good, I bought several tubes of the Burt's Bees diaper creme for the grandbabies and both Lisa and Noel said they saved it as the "good stuff" since it worked well and smelled good to boot. All their products are all natural AND all I've tried have been effective. Not something one can always honestly say about a company's products, natural or otherwise. Probably even more for the "otherwise."

My favorite sample is a tiny tube of Peppermint Foot Lotion. Every summer I battle sandal foot issues. It's not that I mind a bit of leathering, makes sense since we expose our feet to hot pavement and sand, etc. But not to the point of cracking or pain. So I've learned to keep it to a minimum. Since I had it, I tried the lotion. The back label says "refreshing to the feet" - yeah, advertising, and it cures leprosy too - but it's true. It felt wonderful! So I've taken to dabbing it on after my shower, after rubbing off whatever dry skin the water helps loosen. Lotion, and then hop into bed.

Problem is, my animals think it's wonderful too. The first night I put it on, my fuzzy black cat Nut, jumped up on the bed and started licking my feet. When I tried to pull them away, she grabbed on to them like a predator holding down some hapless antelope, held my big toe between small but very sharp teeth, and GROWLED at me to hold still. I had to extricate myself VERY CAREFULLY from her sharp claws and jaw.

Since then I've been tasted by at least half a dozen cats and Rosie. I'm forced to keep my feet under wraps until the temptation passes and everyone is settled in, asleep, for the night. It reminds me of that line in Practical Magic where Sally says "He really loved my mint-oatmeal shaving cream. He couldn't stop eating it." Wildlife issues aside, I think when I use up this small tube, I'll be buying some more of this stuff.


Blogger Kirsty said...

cracks me up that you used the phrase "to boot" in your "feet" section! My kitty likes to chew my calves, the little monster! Not sure the big toe thing is all that better.

Kingsolver will be on my next library request, you are the 2nd person to recommend this, and I am looking forward to reading it and sharing my thoughts later!

sweaty grumpy in central Mass
where it's an unlikely 90+ with dewpoints in the 70's

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very helpful review. If you like these, you may like to check out Bayard's new range of monthly books for ages 3 - 6, 6 - 9 and 9 - 12 respectively : StoryBoxBooks, AdventureBoxBooks, DiscoveryBoxBooks Also, I see they have a guest illustrator for one of their stories in the September edition of Storybox - award winning illustrator Helen Oxenbury, who also provided illustrations for Alice in Wonderland.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Connie Carpenter Macko said...

a variety of responses to your varied topics!
a) sigh... I love games. board or otherwise. I'm coming to your house as no one wants to play them with me...!
b) Hermione would be totally into reading "animal, vegetable, mineral"... just a thought. i'd like to read it too.
c) hmmm... bad bad bad idea on the age thing - although think how many more books might get read if you weren't supposed to read them? :) wonder what age the bible would get. with all that smiting, sin and number of the beast stuff probably "adults only". what would one do at vacation bible school then?
d) that stuff does sound "yummy", I'm totally into "lau it on thick from bath and body works myself. may need to try the natural kind!

6:18 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home