Illiteracy Weekly Newsletter

…. I wish I’d started this homework assignment earlier instead of 3 hours before it was due… it was A LOT of fun, and I’d love to have put more time and energy into it! I wish the content was better… but I guess it’s funnier if it’s NOT! 😉

If you can’t read the tiny text, no big deal… it’s mostly about articles we had to read for class.

This is what the ‘inspirational’ photo says, in case you can’t read it.  😉
(It’s in the rotation of backgrounds on my laptop)

What is the use of stories that aren’t even true?

What IS the use of stories that aren’t even true?


The oft-asked question in Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories is, “What is the use of stories that aren’t even true?”

While Rushdie’s book is described as an example of a more comical and light subdivision of the fantasy genre, each form of fantasy contains within it a variety of aspects that resonate within additional fantastical categories. Rushdie’s question can be applied to and answered through any genre of fantasy.

There is truth in every fictional story, and the uses of fictional stories, while dependent to some extent upon author intent and reader response, are, in fact, infinite.

If fictional stories had no use, why would anyone write fiction or fantasy? 

Storytellers may not be aware of their subtexts, attitudes, or perspectives about the purpose or benefit of their words and stories, but that does not mean they are not present.  While ideas about use may vary and differ, each author must believe that their storytelling will be put to some use or another.  These uses are often subjective, multifaceted, and numerous.  Just as an author may communicate many different ideas, meanings, and uses, readers may also interpret or superimpose many different ideas, meanings, and uses.  C.S. Lewis communicated tenants of Christian theology through many of his works, but he also reiterated the use of fantasy as a way for readers to address real-life issues, through a fantasy world to explore “emotional dilemmas (they) feel faced by in their everyday lives” (Rustin, 1987, p. 40).  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is clearly representative of the important use of fantasy as a tool to address cultural, societal, emotional, and psychological needs, understanding, and development – a prevalent perspective about fantasy’s value and use.

The primary, overarching importance of the use of children’s fantasy literature is the idea that the genre addresses and fulfills vital “psychological, cultural and aesthetic needs which are disregarded by most other forms of contemporary literature” (Oziewicz, 2008, p. 66). 

Fantasy allows the fears and worries of society to be addressed and explored, as well as providing a great deal of “potential as an emotional survival strategy” (Bharat, 2015, p. 305).  In addition, “stories can be a cohesive force in constructing a community” (Mukherjee, 1998, p. 175), a force that allows communities to overcome obstacles and experience positive growth and development.  Lloyd Alexander’s “The Grammar of Story” emphasizes this importance by detailing the ways in which words and storytelling can work magic.  Rushdie’s narrative in Haroun and the Sea of Stories provides valuable political and cultural implications about the intrinsic value and power of words and stories. This is just one narrative that articulates the importance of stories and storytelling and the ways in which they can be applied to resisting terror and oppression by conquering fears through living life instead of through grand, cosmic acts of courage.

Through the creation of a fantasy narrative such as this, an author can invent their own logic and use and incorporated it into each aspect of the story, so it has a sturdy base: “We don’t dig the foundation after the house is built” (Alexander, 1981, p. 10), and the fantasy world must have “identifiable and workable laws underpinning it” (Yolen, 1996, p. 173).  While each work of fantasy is unique, they are all bonded by their structure and interconnected in their capacity to encourage imaginative exploration and address very real concepts, dilemmas, and threats, such as the “tyranny of fear” (Bharat, 2015, p. 304).  New fears are constantly arising, and all types of fantasy literature can help to confront and explore these fears through large societal battles of terrorism and oppression as well as smaller, but no less important, battles of personal conflict, growth, and development.

Conflict is the dynamic element of any story, and the fate of the world can be affected by cosmic, mythopoeic quest and conflict as well as by the conflict-response behavior of a single person, as revealed through interactions with themselves, others, and the world around them.

While each fantasy story may be categorized according to a general consensus of its overall purpose, use, or tone, each fantasy story is an amalgam of diverse components that draw on a variety of ideas about the truth of untrue stories.  “What is the use of stories that aren’t even true?”  The use of Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories is to answer this very question, and in many ways, this is the use of every work of fantasy literature.  Storytellers create illusions, and the truth in that illusion is “how thoroughly it convinces us of its reality; how strongly it resonates in our emotions; how deeply it moves us to new feelings and new insights.” (Alexander, 1981, p. 4).

Truth is not always convincing, and a fantasy story can help a reader to recognize and understand the truth in the world around them.

‘Untrue’ fantasy stories are incredibly valuable in an infinite number of ways.  Each fantasy genre, and each fantasy story, has unique and distinctive qualities.  In mythopoeic fantasy, adventure has momentous scale and consequences. However, while lighter fantasy genres may seem to lack cosmic battles of good versus evil, the adventures and battles still have consequences that are momentous to the characters experiencing them.

While mythopoeic fantasy suggests big answers to big questions, small answers to small questions are just as substantially cosmic to those affected by them.

A child can have an adult adventure that articulates hope for all humanity by the simple act of articulating the hope of one human. 

One human is a part of humanity, and the truth is that one child can change the world.


References

Alexander, Lloyd. (1981). The grammar of story. In Betsy Hearne and Marilyn Kaye (Eds), Celebrating children’s books: Essays on children’s literature in honor of Zena Sutherland. (pp. 3-13). New York: Lothrop, Lee, and Shepard Books.

Bharat, Meenakshi. (2015). Creative fear in Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and Luka: The ‘safe house’ of children’s literature. In Marvels & tales. (pp. 304-323).

Lewis, C.S. (1950). The lion, the witch, and the wardrobe. New York: Harper Collins.

Mukherjee, Meenakshi. (1998). Politics and children’s literature: a Reading of Haroun and the Sea of Stories. In Ariel: a Review of international English literature. (pp. 163-177).

Oziewicz, Marek. (2008). One earth, one people: The Mythopoeic fantasy series of Ursula K. Le Guin, Lloyd Alexander, Madeline L’Engle, and Orson Scott Card. New York: Simon Pulse.

Rowling, J.K. (1999). Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic.

Rushdie, Salman. (1990). Haroun and the sea of stories. New York: Penguin.

Rustin, Margaret and Michael. (1987). Narnia: an Imaginary land as container for moral and emotional adventure. In Narratives of love and loss: Studies in modern children’s fiction. (pp. 40-58). New York: Verso.

Strimel, Courtney B. (2004). The politics of terror: Rereading Harry Potter,” In Children’s literature in education. (pp. 35-52).

Yolen, Jane. (1996). Turtles all the way down. In Sheila Egoff et al. (Eds) Only connect: Readings on children’s literature. (pp. 164-174). New York: Oxford University Press.

Read into It: The Dragon Tamers

The Dragon Tamers:

by Edith Nesbit

If you like reading fantasy, and want to know how to tame a dragon, this is the story for you! Also – cats.

I came across this children’s story in the ‘Sleep Stories’ section of my “Calm” meditation app.  If you have the “Calm” app on your phone or tablet, you can listen to a 39 minute soothing rendition read by Aurora De Blas with music by Ophylia Wispling. She does the voices and there is accompanying music – it’s very well done.

Because Edith Nesbit’s works were published over 100 years ago, they are now in public domain and you can also listen to or read the entire story online for free:

 

Here’s how it begins:

“There was once an old, old castle–it was so old that its walls and towers and turrets and gateways and arches had crumbled to ruins, and of all its old splendor there were only two little rooms left; and it was here that John the blacksmith had set up his forge.
He was too poor to live in a proper house, and no one asked any rent for the rooms in the ruin, because all the lords of the castle were dead and gone this many a year. So there John blew his bellows and hammered his iron and did all the work which came his way. This was not much, because most of the trade went to the mayor of the town, who was also a blacksmith in quite a large way of business, and had his huge forge facing the square of the town, and had twelve apprentices, all hammering like a nest of woodpeckers, and twelve journeymen to order the apprentices about, and a patent forge and a self-acting hammer and electric bellows, and all things handsome about him. So of course the townspeople, whenever they wanted a horse shod or a shaft mended, went to the mayor.
John the blacksmith struggled on as best he could, with a few odd jobs from travelers and strangers who did not know what a superior forge the mayor’s was. The two rooms were warm and weather-tight, but not very large; so the blacksmith got into the way of keeping his old iron, his odds and ends, his fagots, and his twopence worth of coal in the great dungeon down under the castle.
It was a very fine dungeon indeed, with a handsome vaulted roof and big iron rings whose staples were built into the wall, very strong and convenient for tying captives to, and at one end was a broken flight of wide steps leading down no one knew where. Even the lords of the castle in the good old times had never known where those steps led to, but every now and then they would kick a prisoner down the steps in their lighthearted, hopeful way, and sure enough, the prisoners never came back.
The blacksmith had never dared to go beyond the seventh step, and no more have I–so I know no more than he did what was at the bottom of those stairs.”

You can read the rest here:   http://www.online-literature.com/edith-nesbit/book-of-dragons/6/


Edith Nesbit is actually really interesting, and I bought her more recent out of print biography a while back … apparently she is considered to have invented the children’s adventure story and to be the first modern writer for children, as she was writing specifically for children when that wasn’t even a thing. -YAY!

Edith Nesbit’s biography is subtitled: A Woman of Passion.  Not only did she know a bunch of other literary coolios, such as George Bernard Shaw (as a luvah), and H.G. Wells, she married her first husband when she was 7 months pregnant, and I guess her husband cheated on her with her friend and then Edith adopted the baby…? whaaaaaaaaaa!?

The Railway Children, her most famous work has NEVER been out of print.  100+years. whaaaaa!!?!

More about Edith:
http://www.edithnesbit.co.uk/biography.php

 

Ode to Sleep

You’ve gone away and left me
I spend each night alone
Just Waiting and awaiting
for you to come back home.

I miss our days together, 
and our nights as well.
Each day I am without you
Is a day akin to hell.

I miss the way you made me feel;
You kept me safe and warm.
And I could conquer any mountain
With you to calm my storm.

You always left me brimming
With the strength to labor on.
The way you clung to me in mornings,
Anchored me past dawn.

You’re no longer here beside me –
I miss your soft caress
I mostly miss your company:
Without you, I’m a mess.

Music Monday: Dickhead

Music Monday!

Music can be a great source of comfort and inspiration when you’re feeling down.

Today’s song is: “Dickhead” by Kate Nash.

Listen to the song here:

Lyrics:

“Why are you being a dickhead for
Stop being a dickhead
Why are you being a dickhead for
You’re just fucking up situations

Why are you being a dickhead for
Stop being a dickhead
Why are you being a dickhead for
You’re just fucking up situations

Shiny floor, slippery feet
Lights are dim, my eyes can’t meet
The reflection that turns my images
Upside down so I can’t see

Think you know everything
You really don’t know nothing
I wish that you were more intelligent
So you could see that what you are doing
Is so shitty, to me

Thirty five
People couldn’t count
On two hands the amount of times you made me stop
Stop and think why are you being such a dickhead for

Stop being a dickhead,
Why are you being a dickhead for
You’re just fucking up situations
Why are you being a dickhead for
Stop being a dickhead,
Why you being a dickhead for
You’re just fucking up situations

Stop, now don’t show
Just have a think before you
Will you, stop, now don’t show
Just have a think before you

Will you stop, no don’t show
Just have a think before you
Will you stop, don’t show
Will you just have a think before you

My brain and my bones don’t want to take, this anymore
No my brain and my bones don’t want to take, this anymore
No my brain and my bones don’t want to take with this anymore
No my brain and my bones don’t want to take, this anymore, so

Why are you being a dickhead for
Stop being a dickhead
Why are you being a dickhead for
You’re just fucking up situations

Why are you being a dickhead for
Stop being a dickhead
Why you being a dickhead for
You’re just fucking up situations”

Why this song’s so cool:  Sometimes I get sad and just don’t understand why people do such dumb, shitty stuff and act like such… well… DICKHEADS! So it’s nice to know that someone else shares my confusion and frustration.

Why this song’s helpful: This song plays in my head whenever I think someone is being a stupid and hurtful dickhead.  This song plays in my head whenever I witness someone doing stuff without thinking and consequently hurting themselves and/or others.

STOP BEING A DICKHEAD!  STOP FUCKING UP SITUATIONS!

More about Kate Nash here:

http://www.katenash.com/

Eating French Toast With a Spoon

Eat French Toast With a Spoon!


It’s silly and different and perhaps inefficient, but sometimes you gotta do it.

Sometimes you don’t have the “right” tools for what you need to accomplish.

It may not fit the standard perception of what you should do, but who cares!?

It’s a new experience that takes creativity and open-mindedness and those are good qualities to embrace and nurture.

So eat french toast with a spoon.  It’s actually not that hard, and it’s kind of fun!


In completely unrelated news,  sometimes all my forks are dirty and I hate doing dishes…


 

Pets: Joy VS Burden

You know what apparently helps people with depression and anxiety?

Having a cat. Or dog, or hamster, or whatever.  Something you can cuddle preferably, that is reliant on you, loves you unconditionally, and you think is totes adorbs.

Therapy animals are real, people.  This is the reason I adopted my cat, Brisco (Yes, he is named for Brisco County, Jr.) This is a tough one though, because there is definitely a balance that needs to be struck.  Ultimately, Brisco does help more than he hinders, but there have definitely been times when I wished I didn’t have him.  As with any creature, he can be annoying, persistent, in the way, etc.

derp

He meows at doors at night, knocks things over, gets in the way, tries to trip you, randomly jumps on your face, tries to eat your toes, attacks anything that moves, scratches you up, and will not let you read in peace!  OMG RIGHT NOW he thinks a great place to sit is directly in front of this computer screen!  So in the darkest time, sometimes a pet can be a definite added stressor and source of frustration/annoyance/helplessness.  That said, I am so grateful to have him in my life.  As I gain back more and more positivity, little by little, I see and feel the benefits.  He’s a non-judgmental listener.  He’s a distraction from my problems.  He is obsessed with me and always wants to be with me.  That’s pretty flattering and good for self-esteem.

 


6 Ways Pets Relieve Depression:
https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/05/19/6-ways-pets-relieve-depression/
Pets for Depression and Health:
http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/pets-depression#1
Depression, Anxiety and Pets
https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/depression-anxiety-and-pets/
Awwww who can resist dat face… <3

Music Monday: Not Perfect

Music Monday!

Music can be a great source of comfort and inspiration when you’re feeling down.

Today’s song is: “Not Perfect” by Tim Minchin.

Listen to the song here:

Lyrics:

“This is my earth
And I live in it
It’s one third dirt and two thirds water
And it rotates and revolves through space
At rather an impressive pace
And never even messes up my hair.
And here’s the really weird thing
The force created by its spin
Is the force that stops the chaos flooding in.
This is my earth and it’s fine.
It’s where I spend the vast majority of my time.
It’s not perfect, but it’s mine.
It’s not perfect…

This is my country
And I live in it.
It’s pretty big and nice to walk on.
And the bloke who runs my country
Has built a demagoguery
And taught us to be fearful and boring.
And the weirdest thing is that he is
Conservative of politics
But really rather radical of eyebrows.
This is my country and it’s fine.
It’s where I spend the vast majority of my time.
It’s not perfect, but it’s mine.
It’s not perfect…

This is my house
And I live in it
It’s made of cracks and photographs.
We rent off a guy, who bought it from a guy,
Who bought it from a guy, whose granddad left it to him.
And the weirdest thing is that this house
Has locks to keep the baddies out
But they’re mostly used to lock ourselves in.
This is my house and it’s fine.
It’s where I spend the vast majority of my time.
It’s not perfect, but it’s mine.
It’s not perfect, but it’s mine.

This is my body
And I live in it.
It’s thirty-one and six months old.
It’s changed a lot since it was new.
It’s done stuff it wasn’t built to do.
I often try to fill it up with wine.
And the weirdest thing about it is
I spend so much time hating it
But it never says a bad word about me.
This is my body and it’s fine.
It’s where I spend the vast majority of my time.
It’s not perfect, but it’s mine.
It’s not perfect…

This is my brain
And I live in it.
It’s made of love and bad song lyrics.
It’s tucked away behind my eyes
Where all my screwed up thoughts can hide
‘Cause god forbid I hurt somebody.
And the weirdest thing about a mind
Is that every answer that you find
Is the basis for a brand new cliche.
This is my brain and it’s fine.
It’s where I spend the vast majority of my time.
It’s not perfect, but it’s mine.
It’s not perfect, but it’s mine.
It’s not perfect, not quite sure I worked out how to work it.
It’s not perfect, but it’s mine.”

Why this song’s so cool:  Tim Minchin is so weird.  He primarily does comedy, but this song, while still pretty funny it it’s own, subtle way, is actually pretty deep and inspirational.

Why this song’s helpful: Nothing is perfect, but we’re lucky to have what we have.

More about Tim:

 http://www.timminchin.com/about/

 

Mary was Fed Up with Bob…

Another assignment for one of my writing classes:

Mary was fed up with Bob and didn’t quite know how to deal with it.

It had been for some time now that she had realized she wasn’t happy.  Her feelings had changed.  She used to be content with him.  But then, time had passed, and he just wasn’t the same man from before.  He seemed somehow less than he had been, just a dim reflection of the man she had first met.  She was disappointed.  In him, and in herself.  Now she just felt empty, even slightly ill around him. Something was missing.

Mary shook her head slowly as she gazed down at Bob as he reclined in the usual chair.  He seemed so peaceful.  And why not? He didn’t know how hollow and alone she felt.  “Had it all been for nothing?” she wondered.   She caressed his face tenderly and tucked a lonely, graying hair behind his ear.  If only he would open his eyes, then maybe, just maybe things could change.  They could change together. Work things out, give it another go.  She could be less demanding, couldn’t she?  Take less of him?  He could make her feel that way again, couldn’t he? That special way she had only ever felt with him, and only at the beginning- completely full of abundance and love?  He had been the missing part of her, once.  But maybe no one person could ever be enough.

She took her hand away and pondered her situation.  Maybe it was too late. The magic was gone, but why?  Why had his sweetness faded? When had her hunger for him dwindled away into detachment, and then revulsion?  Where was that flavor, that zest, that delicious satisfaction?  His essence seemed to saturate the air. Once, that had been an invigorating comfort, but now… she  didn’t think she could stomach much more.  Mary sighed. It was time to move on. There just wasn’t any room left for him in her life.  Or in her belly.  She was still hungry, but it was time to find someone new to eat.