Wednesday, December 31, 2014
“I tell ya,” he cried. “I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick.”
-Crooks, Of Mice and Men
All I’ve ever really wanted to do was read and talk about books, and this semester I’ve been so fortunate to teach some of my favorites.“I think I’ll be a clown when I get grown… yes sir, a clown. There ain’t one thing in this world I can do about folks except laugh, so I’m gonna join the circus and laugh my head off.” -Dill
Often it’s the minor characters of novels that stir us so deeply. The bit players who strut their hour upon the stage and are heard no more.“Hesitation of any kind is a sign of mental decay in the young, or physical weakness in the old.” -Lady Bracknell, Importance of Being Earnest.
Whether it’s Lady Bracknell’s cucumber sandwiches or Charles Baker Harris sprouting whoppers from the collard patch or Desdemona’s superstitious father fearing his daughter is bewitched by a Moor or Charlie Bates who traded it all in to become a farmer…I loved teaching the minor characters this year, and none more than Crooks, the black stable buck from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.“With this irrepressible ebullition of mirth, Master Bates laid himself flat on the floor…” -Charley Bates, Oliver Twist
It’s hard to build compassion in others. Here in Asia, it’s an impossible task, but reading the tale of the ranch boss who drops a jug of whiskey on the bunkhouse table at Christmas for the drunken men to kick fight and give hell to the negro…and watching my students giggle and squeal in delight at the thought of Crooks’ isolation and pain, then stepping outside at the break to leg sweep and punch and ridicule one another… is often more than I can withstand.
“O thou foul thief, where hast thou stow’d my daughter?” -Brabantio, Othello
So I return to books as a solace and bunker down with humanity. That’s all one can really hope to become in life, isn’t it? A bit player in the masterpiece narrative of someone else’s life. A brief confidant. An impassioned bar-stool soliloquizer. An off-the-cuff anecdoter. A stealer of scenes. I hope this blog is reminiscent of that for people, a place they visit, just for a moment, and old friend they return to and take solace in. Merry Christmas Everyone!