Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Note: Disturbing Example of Poor Writing Skills from Local Student

Really, I blog quite often.  Unfortunately, it is in my head and somehow that doesn't make it magically appear here.  I also do six posts a week for my ghost-writing gig and that's taken a lot out of me these days.  This AM was one of the times I stared at words for long stretches with no idea what to do with them and had trouble rephrasing parts of a news story.

This story has been sitting in my head (and, partly, in a drawer) since May 28.  It was while my treadmill was broken and I had to walk outside (MUCH harder on my back).  I was walking across the street from our high school and it was just starting to drizzle.  I spotted a folded up piece of paper and felt compelled to snoop.  It turned out to be a note.  A love note.  There was more rain on the way so I knew putting it back wouldn't do much good....if the recipient even found it, the note would be destroyed.  I feel guilty, but I kept it.

Part of me thinks the note is cute, with the sender marking the anniversary of sitting next to the recipient in Spanish class and realizing he (well, I'm going with "he"....I'll get to that) was in love with the recipient.  A bigger part of me alternated between amused and pretty darn upset.  The author is either a junior or senior and, even granting that a note doesn't always require perfect grammar, the poor writing quality is disturbing.  A few examples:
  •  "Remeber" instead of "remember"....multiple times
  • Refers to being told to "site" instead of "sit"
  • "I new I loved you.  I new, I wanted you"
  • "For ever" instead of "forever"....twice
  • "Allways"
  • Mentions wearing a "flanel"
  • "I remeber what you where wearing to" 
It is also a bit confusing (yes, I've spent too much time pondering this letter!) since the author signs it "Your Boy" while referring to the recipient saying "(Female name)...will you site with me today?"  Given my views, I'd be all in favor of a teen being comfortable being transgendered in high school.  However, it is probably more likely that the author is a male and the quote is just another error.

I still feel a bit guilty having the letter.  I'd have put it back where I found it if it wasn't clear it would be destroyed by rain anyway.  But, I admit, I've also gotten an odd level of enjoyment from watching a few people read it and take in the errors.  I've read it several times and I'm still shaking my head as I write this. 

It really does upset me that this is the product of my local schools.  I had a similar reaction to some of the papers submitted by the X's college students.  I feel like we've done a disservice to this student.  I've certainly heard about worse stories, including the number of people who manage to graduate while being functionally illiterate.  Still, I can't imagine a future employer reading something written by the note's author, even a simple note written in a job that doesn't demand a lot of writing. 

I know many wonderful and committed teachers and imagine this has to be more of a system-wide issue than about specific educators.  I want to bring the note to a school board meeting.  I either want to demand my tax money back or demand we invest more funds specifically aimed at literacy-related skills.  I may be biased given my love of both, but I feel that there are few skills as crucial as reading and writing.  Shaking my head isn't fixing anything, I know this.  I need to find a way to do more (though it may need to wait till I have more mental energy). 

Side note: I know the grammar in my blog is FAR from perfect. I admit I don't always proofread. Still, I hope any errors don't distract from the content and don't rise to the level found in the note. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Weaving Connections and Characters: A Review of The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booty

Really, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. I've been having trouble getting my brain to play nice lately and using the writing energy I can muster for my law firm ghost-blogging. I have been doing a bit better on the reading front of late and this review has been on my to-do list for a bit....

This book sits somewhere between the (recently trendy) format of linked short stories and a novel.  The settings range from World War II Europe to the twenty-first century U.S., with some of the focal characters getting revisited at multiple times in their lives.  Early on we meet Mr. Hugo, a man severely deformed in the war who we meet as an elderly man whose days are brightened by a young neighbor.  We meet him again in later chapters, learning more about his life.  We meet a young blind woman hoping for love.  We also meet a couple in love when the man leaves for the war.  The woman comes to believe her young love has been lost in the war, only to have him reappear many years later.  These stories weave together, along with others, and the characters impacting each other lives in ways small and large.

I am struggling to put words to my experience of this book.  At times it felt like it was trying too hard.  Or I was trying too hard...and I don't know if that's my doing or the book's or both (that brings up memories of literary theory, not a subject I enjoyed).  I focused too much on trying to identify overlaps and spot connections that I sometimes didn't enjoy the journey of the read.  Ultimately, I think the big connections do become clear enough that the extra focus wasn't needed, although I might have missed little pieces if I didn't keep the level of vigilance. 

Trying to set that all aside for some other thoughts....I came to care about many of the characters, appreciating their human-ness and their desire for connection.  Several of them pulled at my heart, always a sign of a good read.  Van Booty clearly has a talent for words and the language is lovely.  There's a lot of sadness and loneliness, but there's an underlying reminder of enduring connections.

It's a beautiful book, but it is very much trying to be....it feels a bit unfair to criticize that, but it did impact my reading experience.  Three and a half to four stars (with thanks to Harper for providing me an advance reader's copy).