Category Archives: Important ideas

The Seventh Seal

This book, the screenplay for The Seventh Seal, by Ingmar Bergman, has been sitting on my bookshelf for over 45 years! It’s traveled with us through many moves, and has always held a secure place on our shelves even though we’ve culled our collection of books many times.

I reread it the other day for Dewey’s 24-hour Read-a-thon, and I was once again blown away by the excellence of the writing, the depth of the ideas, and by Ingmar Bergman’s understanding of the human condition. I’m talking about the screenplay…the film itself is absolutely incredible because of the visual story-telling power of Bergman!

The story is as simple and as complex as life. It takes place during the Middle Ages, specifically during the time of the Crusades and the plague (the Black Death). A weary knight is returning home from the Crusades, and he meets Death outside a village. In an attempt to delay his inevitable death, he challenges Death to a chess game. If he wins, Death must tell him his secrets and let him go. If he loses…Death is right there to take him.

Everything else that happens in this story is related to what humans do and the questions they seek answers to in the face of inevitable death. There is humor, kindness, and love. There is fear, cruelty, and selfishness. There is faith and hope and despair. And there are no answers and no escaping death, but there is also a very human need to do something meaningful with one’s life. It is a fascinating and ultimately hopeful story. A story told by a genius!

 

 

This was one of my “alternate” choices for my Classics Club 50-books-in-5-years list.

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I’m So Sorry, Mem Fox!

mem-fox

Mem Fox has long been a favorite author of mine and of my students over the years. Her books are very special and dearly loved by group after group of my second graders. So, tonight, when I read a news article about the treatment she received upon entering the United States for a conference — please click here to read the article — I felt absolutely sick with sadness, embarrassment, and outrage at what my country is becoming. When the leader of the country and his minions demonstrate bullying and hateful behaviors on a daily basis, their behavior gives permission to other cowards and small-minded people to behave the same way. Mem was subjected to that ugliness, and I just want to tell her how very sorry I am that that happened to her and how ashamed I am of those people in my country that are so consumed with hate and meanness … and that have been given free reign to bully.

The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid's TaleOn finishing The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, the only thing I could say at first was “Wow!”  It is quite a story, so very well written, so very powerful, and so very sobering…I think it will stay with me for a long, long time.

Set in a dystopian future, in what these days seems chillingly like the near future, women have lost all rights. “Handmaids” are the only women who are still able to bear children, and their existence is completely dependent on being successful in producing a child…a child that another woman of a higher status will raise.

The story is an interesting exploration of the lives of women in a totalitarian regime.  It is a profound immersion into the “What Ifs” we must all ask ourselves about our society. I found it sad, disturbing, and fascinating, but not without hope!  I couldn’t put it down.

I’ve been thinking about it since I finished it a few days ago and realized that I am looking at things differently now. This is a perspective-changing book, and during this tumultuous time in US history, I think it is an important book for exactly that reason. It was written in 1985, and I was aware of it but until last week was too intimidated to read it. However, I’ve been so concerned about the direction our society is taking these days and the difficult challenges we all face, that I felt that instead of “escaping” (my usual response to overwhelming  news), I needed to tackle some of these ideas head on. I’m glad I finally found the courage to do so.

A Bibliography

notebook-from-1974Looking through some of my old notebooks the other day, I found an extensive bibliography of a book that I vaguely remember reading: Images of Women in Fiction: Feminist Perspectives, by Susan K. Cornillon. It was a library book, I remember that, and I was particularly interested in the extensive bibliography the author included. At that time I was a young stay-at-home mother with a 2-1/2 year old, so I must have been very Impressed because I took the time to copy it down, filling 5 pages in my notebook. With my cell phone, I took photos of those five pages to share with you because it’s a terrific book list! And it was fun for me to realize that over the years since 1974, I have read many of those books even though I hadn’t looked at that list in years! Do you keep notebooks? They really do turn into treasures after a few years…

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Note:  You can stop the slideshow and then click on the page to enlarge it if you want to look more closely at the list.