Saturday, May 30, 2015

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

First, a few notes:

  • I will never cease to be amazed by old dystopian authors' ability to look into the future and accurately predict what will happen that will suck.
  • I, although a nerd and a teacher to boot, am a 26-year-old product of the high-tech, fast-paced 21st century. 
  • In the case of this book, I am reading like a writer, more than like the average Joe.

Basic concept:
The short novel takes place in the indistinct future. Bradbury (author), writing from 1953, does a phenomenal job of predicting the affect television will have on society.  Books are now a threat to the status quo and must be burned.  Firemen start the fires that burn them. The novel's only round, dynamic character is Guy Montag, a fireman.

My observations, opinions, and analysis:
There is a very high level of symbolism in this novel.  Because I listened to the audiobook - and because I'm not always as smart as I think I am, some of it was lost on me.  This means most of it would be lost on the average high school student and many adults.  The literary allusions were just within my range of familiarity, which means all other people with literature and library degrees would get them, but it's a toss-up for math majors and computer tech guys. 

I found the biblical allusions, and the veiled theme that the Bible is the most important book capable of healing a world totally destroyed, touching and understated.  This is good in that the 21st century populace will not be preached at and moralized to.  This is bad in that lack of biblical knowledge will send the allusions right over your head. The words carry double the weight when you know where they came from. 

My aesthetic reactions and recommendation:
The book is short - 5 hours by audio, 150 pages of text. This is good, because some of the imagery and symbolism and allusion drags.  Having only one (real) character, for me, can be tiring.  There's a section very near the end where Guy is caused to wonder what knowledge really is and where it is kept. I am slightly ashamed to say, I cried. If I think about it too hard, I will cry again.  This is probably not a reaction the average person should expect. You've got to really really love books. 

If you have it in your mind to pick up Fahrenheit 451 and read it, you are probably very ambitious, or a nerd, or you like a challenge. If that's true of you, do it. Pick it up, read it, struggle through it, get all the way to the end.  If you are not a reader, this is not a starter book. If you haven't read anything since high school and you're older than 20, this is not how you want to reacclimate yourself.  If you read the Bible (specifically not in the NLT or Message translations), you might want to give this a taste.  See how it goes.

I don't think I could teach this to anyone, but AP students, or seniors who had been through a rigorous English curriculum.
8 out of 10 points.  That's my standard rating.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

God Don't Like Ugly

No other age group can misdefine, misuse, and wear out a term like teenagers.  The title phrase has been around for scores, but I never used it in my vernacular until my students started arbitrarily calling each other "ugly." If you're playing around and make a weird face, "that's ugly." If you get mad when your friend was "just joking," that's ugly. If your friend doesn't know what other fake insult to throw at you, you're ugly.  If you are legitimately unattractive, you're ugly.

But I quickly noticed that calling people names is ugly. So is coarse joking and rebellion. So is grudge-holding, retaliation, and complaining.

Most days when I put on my makeup and take too many selfies and post them, I use the hashtags #PrettyOnTheInside #PrettyOnTheOutside.  I discovered long ago that I didn't want to have on tons of makeup and the cutest outfit but have a pattern of ugly behavior.  If my natural curls are on fleek but I just finished using my harsh sarcasm on a student, I am out of order.

I realized that so many "pretty girls" are like this.  Their faces are attractive, but they are not gracious, they are not sweet, they are critical, vain and unfriendly.  I've been that way before.

After four years being a part of the IVVC church family, people started telling me I was sweet and welcoming.  This was new to me.  I've always been smart, sometimes supportive, always creative, and direct, but rarely sweet.  I got the Attitude Award in junior high cheer because "when she has a good attitude, she has the best, and when she has a bad attitude, she has the worst."  It took me a long time to figure out what happened at church that made me sweeter.

It was the concentrated, saturated basking and soaking in the presence of God.  It was spending 2 to 10 hours every week in the Holy Place understanding how small and insignificant I am and how great and generous and loving God is.

When you spend time in His presence consistently, you come away radiant, like Moses.

As I scroll through Instagram looking for makeup artists and fashion bloggers to inspire me, I always wonder, "Is she also pretty on the inside?"  As I put my face on every morning, I wonder "Is my personality prettier today than yesterday?"

John and Stasi Eldredge write about the healing and redeeming power of beauty, how it invites and inspires.  I want to be one of those women who can't ever be called ugly, regardless of whether my face is bare or made and whether I'm slaying or keeping it lowkey.