I'm doing laundry and researching conservatorships. Sophie turns eighteen next March, and I have to divest her of her rights, basically, and become her guardian. Sigh. I'm also preparing for her IEP is this Friday morning, and her teacher asked whether I wanted her to be there. I told him that no, IEPs are always about what she can't do, and I don't want her to hear that. I also don't want to fill what peaceful, hard-working spaces are left in her brain with the educational jargon the IEP demands. Those of you in the know, know what I'm talking about: achieve 65% success with 92% accuracy and 50% prompting. When this involves using a spoon to feed yourself, you get my drift. I'm also listening to a cool recording of Gertrude Stein from 1934, where she chastises the interviewer on what it means to understand a text. I loved reading Gertrude Stein in college -- read nearly everything she wrote and relished the weird cadence of her language, the koan-like nonsense. Evidently, my enjoyment presupposes understanding, and in this one wonderful interview, Stein affirms what I've always believed and never articulated: either you like a book or not, and the liking is the understanding. I wish I'd known that when I labored for hours in an all-male book club in New York City, nodding my head in deferment to wiser minds that appeared to understand but not enjoy. In another life I was married to a PhD student in English literature, and I remember suffering through interminably boring get-togethers and parties where graduate students spoke of literature with verbal gymnastics that made my head spin (I was always a terrible athlete) but never of liking something or disliking something, of joy or its opposite. Do these people even like to read? I asked my husband at the time. Maybe I'm just slightly off -- I've written before of my envy for Gertrude Stein, for her massive head and unattractive hair, for her seeming comfort in her own bulk and obtuseness. After five straight days of exercise and yoga, I can feel every muscle and sinew in my body, and they ache. Would that I were Gertrude in a voluminous black dress, sitting in a salon with a mousy helpmate cooking something delicious in the kitchen, spinning words into stories that make no sense except to those who enjoy them.
Look here. Being intelligible is not what it seems. You mean by understanding that you can talk about it in the way that you have a habit of talking, putting it in other words. But I mean by understanding enjoyment. If you enjoy it, you understand it. And lots of people have enjoyed it so lots of people have understood it. . . . But after all you must enjoy my writing, and if you enjoy it you understand it. If you do not enjoy it, why do you make a fuss about it? There is the real answer.(via brainpickings.org)
The dryer just binged, so it's back to folding clothes.
Reader, what are you doing today?
I feel the same way about jazz. I'm not privy to all the history and technical aspects... I just really enjoy it.ReplyDelete
I like old jazz, and that kind of cool jazz of Chet Baker, but the newer all-instrumental stuff kind of makes me crazy which must mean that I don't understand it! And that's ok, right?Delete
Oh god, I love this. I haven't apologized but sometimes wondered about the fact that I am most concerned with how much I enjoyed a book. Not how scholarly or clever it is, not how well it illumines greater issues or whatever it is people in academia think books are supposed to be doing. I do not care for Franzen or Camus, I am a failed English major in that respect. I rate a book on how much I enjoyed reading it. Sometimes it's the story alone, sometimes it's the poetry of the words. I'm so glad Stein has validated me. Now I must read her.ReplyDelete
The rhythm of your last sentence is mesmerizing, and I wonder why Sophie must be measured at all. Sophie is quicksilver, slipstream, and unquantifiable.
Confession: I can't stand Franzen and still remember, with nausea, reading Camus and Sartre (French lit major in college). HA!Delete
Could not get thru the first chapter of Corrections. Loathed it, but I'm suddenly feeling validated.Delete
Oh so lovely to find Gertrude here. She is one of my Patron Saints. Thank you.ReplyDelete
what writing(s) do you recommend by Gertrude Stein? I was on Amazon checking to see what she wrote - but I really cannot tell what would be a good read...I am trying to broaden my reading list!ReplyDelete
Thank you in advance....Marcia (I do not know what to choose as - Comment as:?)
Marcia -- Stein is HARD! She is WEIRD! She writes a lot of nonsense-sounding stuff, playing with language, etc. I'd just pick anything on the shorter side to start with and see whether you want to go on --Delete
Today I am unlurking myself to you. I have read your blog from start to finish over the last few weeks as I just discovered you via Grade Doctor. I am a fourth year medical student currently applying for residency in child neurology. I would LOVE to hear your advice for a new, naive, idealistic, hopefully soon to be resident about what you need from your doctor and how I can provide that to the parents and children I meet. (Next time you don't have anything to write about, a post in my honor?) J/k. Kind of. Anyhow. Thank you for sharing as I feel I have already learned much about Sophie and what must be many other special needs children like her. Children that I will hopefully be honored to meet and care for.ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for commenting, fourth year medical student! I would be honored to feature your comment and my answer, as well as welcome my readers to comment as well! Give me a few days, and you'll see! In the meantime, I'll exercise my bias and persuade you to study epileptology -- you'd be addressing the extreme shortage of them in our country! I have done presentations at medical schools about the very subject!Delete
I never know what in hell will strike me. I am NOT an intellectual reader. I know that. I just started listening to a Russell Banks novel and I think I like it very much. Also, I started reading with my eyes the new Michael Chabon (Telegraph Avenue) and I think I like it as well. But one never knows. I read for different reasons, different seasons. That's for sure.ReplyDelete
Your post reminded me of a character in one of my favorite books by Larry McMurtry- Moving On. The character's name is Patsy and her husband is about to go to grad school for literature and he carts around all these books he needs to read and he never cracks them but Patsy, who has no aspirations to go to grad school, devores them for pleasure. He buys them for prestige and because he wants to think of himself as a collector.
And yet, she is the one who reads them, loves them.
I think I've told you before that I have NEVER read Larry McMurtry -- I know, embarrassing! That recommendation, though, sounds good. As for Chabon -- I can't wait to read it. I love his books.Delete
I love hearing from authors whose work I enjoy. There is something so special about hearing their perspective, even if it isn't on their own work, and so validating in case I happen to agree with them ;-).ReplyDelete
And I read "the dryer just binged" as "the dryer binge - d" as though it were so ghastly full of wet clothing that it was about to be sick. Some days that's how I feel about the laundry.
This afternoon -- instead of going to the grocery store and making dinner -- I curled up in a big chair and finished reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Oh my gosh, I loved it. It surprised me and I laughed at all the crazy. Family and friends warned me against reading it. I'm so glad I didn't isten to them.ReplyDelete
If Gertrude is right, they just must not have understood it, right ?
I just downloaded that to listen to in the car! I can't wait, now --Delete
I am currently reading any book I can find about Montréal and Québec City. And a brain candy book that that I am enjoying immensely called, "A Different Kind of Normal" by Cathy Lamb. Also on my night stand is a book on pioneer women of Canada.ReplyDelete
The dog in the photo looks a little like Valentine. : )ReplyDelete
I've never read any Gertrude Stein. I have little patience with obtuseness, though. I don't know if it's a male thing or what, but I have trouble enjoying what I do not intellectually understand. It just frustrates me.ReplyDelete
I love this post so much. I love the image of the all male male book club and the boring get togethers. People trying to outdo each other with their fancy vocabularies. Zzzzzz........ I've never read Stein, but love her take on enjoyment,ReplyDelete
"If you do not enjoy it, why do you make a fuss about it? There is the real answer."
A literary live and let live.
i love the largeness of gertrude and dear mousey alice...ReplyDelete
i like looking into their respective wardrobes, those heavy, dark-wood cupboards: gertrude's lush body draperies, and as i see it, alice's tissue-thin, unshiny dresses, in subtle variations of navy blue & grey.
ps. Never think Alice was mousey! She ran them both from tip to tail and that house too.ReplyDelete
The appreciation of her massive head made me laugh, having a prejudice in favor of big-headed cats. One of my former husbands used to tell me I couldn't like what I liked (translation: enjoyed) because it wasn't "good." Closet enthusiasm, I don't recommend it. I'd forgotten some of the jargon of IEPs. Larry McMurtry and Michael Chabon, sigh. I am no intellectual reader or listener, thought because I couldn't deconstruct poetry guessed that poetry wouldn't want me in its fan club. Poets I've met through our blogs cured me of that. Thank you and Gertrude for additional overdue validation. xoReplyDelete
You've pegged me exactly on reading. I don't "get it" a lot of the time, I'm told, but I certainly know whether or not I enjoy it, and that's really all I cared about. It always seemed wrong to me that a person (moi) who is such a voracious reader should dislike English class so much.ReplyDelete
IEP...yes, wow, I hadn't even thought about the kids being of an age to attend the meetings...