10.27.2010

Lagniappe 36: Grimm's Fairy Tales, 1

In which we go on a wild goose chase with Grimm's Fairy Tales.

Grimm's Fairy Tales, 1
(listen or download from link above)

Read by Joseph from Zombie Parent's Guide
(I realized I mislabeled the episode on the file so it says L34 instead of L36 ...
we will be flexible about this, right? Right!)


Get the book here: Grimm's Fairy Tales

References:
=================
According to Webster
la·gniappe  \ˈlan-ˌyap, lan-ˈ\
Function: 
noun
Etymology: American French, from American Spanish la ñapa the lagniappe, from la + ñapa, yapa, from Quechua yapa something added
Date: 1844
: a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase;
broadly : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure

Gulliver's Travels, Socratic Method, the Interwebs, and That Big "Light Bulb" Moment

I have been interested for some time in the Ignatius Critical Editions series. This interest began when I read Uncle Tom's Cabin and then later was researched the book for reading it aloud here. I was intrigued by this description.
The Ignatius Critical Editions represent a tradition-oriented alternative to popular textbook series such as the Norton Critical Editions or Oxford World Classics,  and are designed to concentrate on traditional readings of the Classics  of world literature. While many modern critical editions have succumbed  to the fads of modernism and postmodernism, this series will  concentrate on tradition-oriented criticism of these great works.
I was not really sure what "tradition-oriented criticism" meant but I thought it would be interesting to  compare with the other materials I came across. [Turns out they are talking about traditional classical education style materials.] However, I wasn't sufficiently impelled me to pursue a copy at the time because there was so much material to cover for UTC.

I never could shake the series from the back of my mind, however, and recently got the Ignatius edition of Gulliver's Travels because my interest was piqued upon having a discussion on an SFFaudio podcast where one of the participants claimed it was a celebration of existentialism. That was far  from my understanding of the book. Satire, yes. But existentialism? I  last read Gulliver's Travels when in high school (on my own though, with  no deeper understanding than that of enjoyment). This critical edition  with several essays and some excellent contextual information seemed  just the ticket for revisiting the book with a critical eye as to just  what Swift was really talking about. I also got the study guide which  looks very interesting at first glance.

This has proven incredibly fruitful from the beginning .... and I admit that I am just getting started by perusing various essays and the study guide. Understanding the context in which Swift wrote is invaluable in having a proper perspective on whether we can trust Gulliver as a narrator. Additionally, without knowing about the real world events with which Swift was in heavy debate, we can't properly understand the four countries that Gulliver visits.

However, it was when reading the Study Guide's introduction, Why a Great Books Study Guide?" that a big light bulb went on for me.
This manner of learning is greatly facilitated when the reader also engages in a dialectic exchange—a live conversation (in person or now online)—with other readers of the same books, probing and discussing the great ideas contained in them and, one hopes, carrying them a few steps further. This method of learning is often referred to as the Socratic method, after the ancient Athenian philosopher Socrates, who initiated its use as a deliberate way to obtain understanding and wisdom through mutual inquiry and discussion. This same "questioning" method was used by Christ,* who often answered questions with other questions, parables, and stories that left the hearers wondering, questioning, and thinking. He already knew the answers, as Socrates often did. The goal was not merely indoctrination of the memory with information, facts, and knowledge, but mind- and life-changing understanding and wisdom.
This may seem blindingly obvious to many but for me, as I said, it was a new idea in terms of my own participation. I suddenly realized that the internet and podcasts especially had plunged me head-first into mind-broadening inquiry through dialogue and considering other's questions or information. A few examples that sprang to mind:
  • Heather Ordover at CraftLit is the one who began it all for me with her thoughtful commentary on classics. Heather gives background, thematic information and more, and then plays a few chapters of the classic under discussion in each episode. She is a teacher who loves facilitating conversation with her many listeners. They in turn give plenty of feedback and raise thoughtful questions of their own. Thanks to Heather, I revisited the dreaded Scarlet Letter that high school had ruined for me ... and found it to be good. Very good. Right now, in going through A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain, Heather is raising significant points about satire and the necessity for readers' to remember that the protagonist is not the author and not necessarily trustworthy. These points are especially timely for me as they will weave into my reading of Gulliver's Travels, which is just such a story.
  • SFFaudio from Scott Danielson and Jesse Willis is a spot where I actively am engaged in Socratic method as I often participate in their "read alongs" where a few people connect via Skype to discuss a book that everyone read. Those who read science fiction know that more likely than not the good reads also are discussing larger issues. They are not afraid to delve deep into themes and how they resonate through life today. In fact, it was a discussion of Mindswap by Robert Sheckley that led me to pursue Gulliver's Travels and the existentialist claim. If that isn't an example of mind broadening, I don't know what is. Plus, their other episodes are just as likely to open larger vistas as they interview audiobook producers, narrators, authors, and anyone else of interest who comes their way.
  • ChopBard (the cure for boring Shakespeare) from Ehren Ziegler is a newer addition to my podcast listening but I now have a completely new way of thinking about Shakespeare, thanks to Ehren's enthusiasm and practical comments as we proceed act-by-act through these great plays. I have listened to Hamlet and am about halfway through Romeo and Juliet (the play he began the podcast with). First, Ehren provide the context and translation we need in modern times (warning: Romeo and Juliet deserves an R rating if you are reading it right). More importantly, he uses the works themselves to delve deep into people, motivations, and big issues of love, existence, happiness, and suchlike. This necessarily makes listeners ponder and respond, leading again to Socratic method in my own thinking about how this is communicated not only in these great works but in others I have read, and in my life itself.
All this is by way of recommending that you sample the Ignatius Critical Editions, into which I am now digging with even greater enthusiasm. In fact, they have Macbeth available and ChopBard will be covering that after the next play (which will be The Tempest, beginning Oct. 27... hey, that's today! ... c'mon Ignatius, get me something on that play!). These books are the perfect gateway into enjoying classics, whether for the first time or rereading, and having at least one "light bulb" moment on the way.


*I suppose we might also call this the rabbinical method as well as Christ was following that teaching method.

10.25.2010

Episode 139: Genesis, Note to Reader 4

In which we consider old-school books and commentary.
Very old school books. Very new commentary.
Genesis, Note to the Reader 4
(download or listen via this link)
Book Information
  • This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.
  • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy Genesis. It comes to life even more when you are able to see and ponder the words.
  • Story rating: R for adult situations and commentary.
  • I will do my best to properly pronounce any Hebrew words but cannot promise accuracy. Biblical words may be pronounced using this guide.
Podcast Highlight
Other Links
My Huffduffer feed

10.15.2010

Episode 138: Genesis, Note to the Reader 3

In which we discuss sex three ways ... oh, yes, and Hebrew.
Genesis, Note to the Reader 3
(download or listen via this link)
Book Information
  • This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.
  • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy Genesis. It comes to life even more when you are able to see and ponder the words.
  • Story rating: R for adult situations and commentary.
  • I will do my best to properly pronounce any Hebrew words but cannot promise accuracy. Biblical words may be pronounced using this guide.
Podcast Highlight
Other Links
My Huffduffer feed

10.07.2010

Episode 137: Genesis, Note to the Reader 2


In which Rebecca runs back AND forth AND back AND forth AND back AND forth.

Genesis, Note to the Reader 2
(download or listen via this link)

Book Information
  • This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.
  • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy Genesis. It comes to life even more when you are able to see and ponder the words.
  • Story rating: R for adult situations and commentary.
  • I will do my best to properly pronounce any Hebrew words but cannot promise accuracy. Biblical words may be pronounced using this guide.
Podcast Highlight
Other Links
My Huffduffer feed

10.06.2010

I, Cthulu

Brilliance from Neil Gaiman for Lovecraft afficianados. Here's the beginning ...
Cthulhu, they call me. Great Cthulhu.

Nobody can pronounce it right.

Are you writing this down? Every word? Good. Where shall I start -- mm?

Very well, then. The beginning. Write this down, Whateley.

I was spawned uncounted aeons ago, in the dark mists of Khhaa'yngnaiih (no, of course I don't know how to spell it. Write it as it sounds), of nameless nightmare parents, under a gibbous moon. It wasn't the moon of this planet, of course, it was a real moon. On some nights it filled over half the sky and as it rose you could watch the crimson blood drip and trickle down its bloated face, staining it red, until at its height it bathed the swamps and towers in a gory dead red light.

Those were the days.
Read it all here. Via Redecorating Middle-Earth in Early Lovecraft.