Monday, December 01, 2008

Civil Disobedience

Clouds in the Himalayan foothills (around 10,000 ft!).
Copyright (c) 2008 Wendee Holtcamp

"Realistic" people who pursue "practical" aims are rarely as realistic or practical in the long run as dreamers who pursue their dreams.
-- Hans Selye

I started reading A Tale of Two Cities to my son, Sam, several months back. I read it to him at night, but not every night. It's a a long book, and it's got Victorian language which is actually why I wanted to read it to him. I want to work on his reading comprehension skills. He's a straight A student, but you know I feel like kids need to read the classics. He's in 7th grade, and has read Huck Finn and some other things but this is Charles Dickens...something every kid should read.

I am not saying I was ever a Dickens fan. I actually wanted to read the darn thing for myself. We're about 1/3 of the way through. So when I'm putting Sam to bed, I will read a bit and if it's confusing. I stop and say OK Sam what just happened? So far, I am enjoying it, though it's relatively slow. But Sam is bored to tears. I've mentioned this to a couple people, and they inevitably say "Oh, A Tale of Two Cities? Great book!" Hmm. That happened again today, and just a couple weeks ago I'd told Sam ok we can stop reading it. I am told that it gets better as it goes on. Today I was told the message is about ultimate sacrifice. So I guess I must continue... but I'm very interested in your thoughts. Did you read it? Like it? Hate it? I will say that Dickens has some very long sentences (but nothing compared to Descartes!)!

I also started reading Henry David Thoreau's On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, which is a short essay and reprinted at the back of my copy of Walden (which I hate to admit I haven't read). I am sure I read Civil Disobedience before, in high school, but I'm loving it! After I finish, I'll write more about this, but I find it particularly interesting because he is a proponent of the concept "That government is best which governs least” which we typically associate with the Republican party. His main reason is that government is corrupt. Ironically, after reading his essay, I'd tend to agree. But not that I'd align with the other issue sthat have dominated the Republican party of recent years. I think Ronald Reagan once said, "It's not that I've left my Party, it's that my Party has left me." That line was repeated in this campaign by some prominent Republicans - I can't remember off the top of my head. Maybe Buckley.

Gotta go, Christmas party tonight!


Jim McCulloch said...

He may be too young, or maybe it just doesn't click with him. I grew up (much closer to the time of Dickens than either you or your son) in a house without many books, but one of them was a tale of 2 cities. I tried to read it when I was 12 or 13, and though I could understand the words and the plot without any problem, I thought it was boring. I put it back on the shelf.

Two or three years later, out of the existential boredom of having nothing to read, I picked it up again, and I was completely hooked at the first paragraph, one of the great leads of English prose. I almost read the book at a single sitting. So ya never know. Maybe some neurons grew into a receptive-to-Dickens clump, hard to say what happened.

So you might give it some time.

And in any case, some people like Dickens, some people don't.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your feedback on this. I think I'm going to stick in there and keep reading it. I am enjoying it myself. I love the opening of course, yes it's one of the most famous in history "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." I honestly wish I had tons of time just to sit around and read again like I did in my childhood! :) Now it's like grabbing a paragraph here and there... listening to books on tape in the car... etc. :) I think our society would benefit so much if everyone had to read the classics that influenced our nation and world. In so many cases, we're facing the exact same "evils" in different clothing.