Thursday, May 24, 2018

Ending the School Year With Beautiful, Heartbreaking Literature (and some poetry)

It is (I say without hyperbole) a perfect novel.

I love it so.

Ramona and I finished reading it aloud today and I'm so glad we lived it together instead of my having "assigned" it. This was, after all, my last opportunity to experience Mockingbird for the first time with one of my daughters.

Betsy told Ramona, before we started the book, "You can't really know how good it is until you finish it."

Today Ramona concurred.


Our other read for May was Thornton Wilder's Our Town. This, too, is a book I thrust into my children's hands and say, "I loved this play desperately when I first read it. Forty years later, I still love it. I hope you will, too." Then I add, "But ... umm ... no pressure, y'know?"

I am a lucky, lucky woman though because all three of my daughters willingly clasp these books to their hearts and look back into my eyes, happily, and with tears.

Emily: "Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover's Corners ... Mama and Papa. good-by to clocks ticking and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths ... and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you. (She looks toward the Stage Manager and asks abruptly through her tears):  

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? -- every, every minute?"

Stage Manager: "No. (Pause.) The saints and poets, maybe -- they do, some."

Our Town was inspired by Edgar Lee Masters' "Lucinda Matlock" and the works share a common theme: life is mundane and profound; it is nothing and it is everything. It is the stuff of saints and poets.

Lucinda Matlock

by Edgar Lee Masters

I went to the dances at Chandlerville,
And played snap-out at Winchester.
One time we changed partners,
Driving home in the moonlight of middle June,
And then I found Davis.
We were married and lived together for seventy years,
Enjoying, working, raising the twelve children,
Eight of whom we lost
Ere I had reached the age of sixty.
I spun, I wove, I kept the house, I nursed the sick,
I made the garden, and for holiday
Rambled over the fields where sang the larks,
And by Spoon River gathering many a shell,
And many a flower and medicinal weed—
Shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green valleys.
At ninety-six I had lived enough, that is all,
And passed to a sweet repose.
What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,
Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?
Degenerate sons and daughters,
Life is too strong for you—
It takes life to love Life.


The Poetry Friday round up is at Reflections on the Teche this week. 


Irene Latham said...

So sweet, sharing beloved books with your daughters... some of my most precious treasures are books given me by my father, and memories of conversations we shared about books. I posted the letter he wrote to me about Harper Lee's GO SET A WATCHMAN on my blog, in case you'd like a peek! Btw, I, too, adore OUR TOWN. Stuff of poets, indeed! Thank you for sharing.

Linda B said...

I shared a kind of 'goodbye' poem today too, Karen and I recently re-read To Kill A Mockingbird. Yes, I agree, it is a perfect novel. My school did plays that were outstanding for middle schoolers and one year they did "Our Town", brought us all to tears. It is a book whose message can carry us through life's upsets, I think, another that keeps us reading and loving books. I love hearing that you share with your daughters, have fond memories of me and my daughter reading together. Thanks for a beautiful post.

Tabatha said...

Beautiful sharing with your daughters, Karen!
"Lucinda Matlock" made me think of "The Postmortal" by Drew Magary, which grappled with issues about what people would do if they suddenly had all the time in the world. Magary thought people weren't strong enough to "love Life" if they lived for a thousand years, so long that they go way past having "lived enough."

Molly Hogan said...

I love that you share books with your daughters--almost like your own family book club! You've inspired me to dig up "Our Town" and reread it. I may even send it to my children and invite them to read along with me. Thanks for the inspiration! I'm off to check out Irene's father's letter now.

Karen Edmisten said...

Irene, I will head over and read that letter -- thanks for the link! My husband read GO SET A WATCHMAN but I couldn't bring myself to read it. I wanted to leave TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD untouched in my mind and heart. :) As my daughters' lit teacher, that was a weak choice, but as one who has loved TKaM for so long, it was my only choice. :)

Linda, your Stafford choice was perfect, esp. for this time of year.

Tabatha, now I need to go look for The Postmortal -- interesting!

Molly, enjoy your reread -- Our Town is always worth one! Let me know if your children read it, too (i.e., if you share it in your own family book club.) :)

Kay said...

I love how you share books you love with your daughters. I do, too. Some we both love; others she doesn't quite grasp (and, if I tell the truth, I don't get some of her favorites, either). Either way, I'm glad we share a love of reading. I just enjoyed a production of OUR TOWN put on by our local community theater, but I didn't know the connection with the poem. Thanks for sharing it.

Karen Edmisten said...

Kay, mother/daughter book clubs are the best! And what would life be if we all agreed on everything all the time? :)

Half the fun of discussing books is seeing where we dovetail, and the other half is digging into where we disagree!

Ruth said...

It's one of the great joys of parenting, sharing books with your children. And as soon as they could read for themselves, they were recommending books to me! I'm going to visit my daughter soon, and she's talking about the books she's going to check out for me from the library while I'm there, and my son has asked me to read him a book when school is out (and he's 15!). Like you, I am a lucky, lucky woman. <3

Karen Edmisten said...

Ruth, I love that she's checking out books for you. That's delightful. :)
What does your son want to read with you?
Ramona is 15, too! :)

Robyn Hood Black said...

Speaking of Ruth, this post reminds me a bit of Ruth's this week! How special to share these literary loves with your daughters. Timeless choices for all of us! :0)

Mary Lee said...

There's lots to learn from Lucinda Matlock...

Michelle Kogan said...

My daughter and I have shared books, more because we've both brought them into the house and one of us is interested in the other. I haven't read "Our Town" but have seen the play, though I think I'd like to read it now–thanks for both of these reviews Karen!

Karen Edmisten said...

Robyn, yes, I agree about the parallel with Ruth's radish poem (which I absolutely love.)
Mary Lee, indeed. The last five lines wallop me every time.
Michelle, you reminded me that Atticus sent me an interesting little clip about the play. I need to share it in a post. If you're interested, it's here: