source: Wikipedia (link)
Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice ‘without pictures or conversation?’
I never read Alice in Wonderland when I was young. Perhaps because it is not such a well known childrens’ story in my home country. Therefore, this read was quite interesting – and heavily biased – upon the Walt Disney animation of Lewis Carrolls’ classic childrens’ story.
I can easily say that it was not as I expected. I found the book quite different, and, surprisingly, more psychologically undertoned. To me, the following passage says very much of how I felt about the books’ focus:
[...] for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people. ‘But it’s no use now,’ thought poor Alice, ‘to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make ONE respectable person!’
Subtle notions like this, throughout the book, to me, made it less a childrens’ book and more a book of contemplation of the mind… and perception of imagination. Sometimes I felt as if she was arguing with herself as if she really had two personalities… All in all though, I found it, at times, difficult to follow – and at places, extremely surreal. I have no idea how I would have thought about it at a younger age, but I’m not sure I like it very much at this moment in time.
- She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed; it was labelled ‘ORANGE MARMALADE’, but to her great disappointment it was empty: she did not like to drop the jar for fear of killing somebody, so managed to put it into one of the cupboards as she fell past it.
- Let me see: four times five is twelve, and four times six is thirteen, and four times seven is–oh dear! I shall never get to twenty at that rate!
This is a journal entry of my thoughts reading ”The well-educated mind” by Susan Wise Bauer
I have never quite seen reading novels, or historical accounts as study. But why shouldn’t it be just like any other study material? Why shouldn’t I approach ”literature” in the same way that I approach Marketing or Power Systems Analysis and Design both of which I went through studying at the University.
Susan Wise Bauer begins with establishing how to read for educational purposes. Reading for pleasure and reading to learn are two different things – and I’ve always known that – but I haven’t quite put in the context of reading a novel for learning. Though Susan makes quite a few points that I really find worth noting:
(1) Read the book without getting hung up on details – make good use of highlights and markings to retrace those difficult sections afterwards.
(2) When finished reading through – go back to analyze the sections of note more carefully.
(3) Establish a viewpoint against the author’s ideas – agreements and disagreements.
I can easliy get stuck on words that I don’t know or sentences that I don’t quite understand. This stops me in my tracks and makes me reread the word/passage several times…sometimes even further back – trying to analyze as I go along. Far from ideal, and Susan makes this point as well – that the focus of the reading should be to grasp the overall concept of the book, and when finished, go back to get deeper understandings.
Some people tend to read books more than once – and this is something I’ve rarely done (The Legend of the Ice People being a clear exception). But looking back on interesting passages of note – as Susan suggests – is an interesting thought, that I think would actually help me grasping the deeper points of a work. I am not, unlike my fiance, someone who remembers every detail while reading – I can’t instantaneously quote a passage from a work I read a week ago – but I could very well give a summary, and say if I liked it or not. But learning something? Other than it being a pleasent story?
In order to keep thoughts focused when summarising a work, Susan points out the importance of quotes. Quotes from a work of interesting passages/sentences helps spark the memory of the book – and I can definetely see that point.
Source: Wikipedia ”Comic History of Rome”
One of my big interests in literature is history. Both non-fiction and fiction history is something I always come back to. Recently I’ve read several historical fictions concentrated on the English royalty, everything from Elizabeth to the Tudors. A week ago I caught the sight of E.H. Gombrichs’ A little History of the World. It had great reviews; however some what mixed, but I felt it might be just my type of history book.
I am about half way through, but several things have already left me thinking. Gombrich wrote this as a history book for school, yet to me, it seems far from ”school book material” – but in the 1930′s maybe one couldn’t have too high expectations. In the writing, it is clear that he ”speaks” to a child – and somewhat subjective thoughts of who was ”bad” and who was ”good”.
”The Merovingian kings were not much good at ruling. They had flowing hair and long beards and they did nothing but sit on the throne and parrot the words their advisors had taught them.”
I can’t decide whether I should interpret Gombrich as being comical, or just childish..(?) To be honest, when I picked it up, I expected it to be something like Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything (which I loved).
The other thing, that I actually agree with some of the other critics – is that the book is very centered on Europe. It seems that Gombrich almost sets the Greeks to single-handedly start the age of ”science”, and the Arabs and Indians are left in the shade… the only ”credit” he gives them is for the number system and for having saved Greek knowledge by ”copy/paste”. This assumption in Gombrich’s history telling has left me disheartened for the last 50 pages…