Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Quick hits

That post-trip/new quarter anxiety is subsiding. I'm keeping up with emails and reducing the amount of assignments I collect to grade after asking myself, "Is this benefiting the student?" I'm not eliminating all assessment of non-essay writing, but I'm increasing the amount of low-pressure (non-graded) writing that we do in class. One of the things I try to convey is that writing is a process - the first draft should never be your best and final draft, regardless of how good it seems. And if students are graded on that first draft, what kind of message am I sending?

Tomorrow we'll discuss "A Rose for Emily" - I like this story better each time I read it. I just love the moment where Miss Emily goes to the pharmacist and asks for rat poison - arsenic. The sweet, unknowing pharmacist says that he's required to ask her what it's for, and
Miss Emily just stared at him, her head tilted back in order to look him eye for eye, until he looked away and went and got the arsenic and wrapped it up. ... When she opened the package at home there was written on the box, under the skull and bones: "For Rats."
Because of Faulkner's narrative structure, the reader doesn't know (unless he or she is more perceptive than I) who the rat is. But after I've read it a few times, I crack up when she opens the poison "for rats."

The library levy passed here in Cincinnati, and Issue 9 (the proposal that would have made it harder for the city to develop any rail system, whether street cars or light rail) failed. In all it was a good election night. But I couldn't help but think about last year and the excitement coursing through the nation. It would be impossible for all Obama's supporters, those thousands of volunteers who canvassed and donated money and phone banked, to sustain that energy through his presidency; unfortunately, I think that kind of energy would be necessary for him to carry out his ambitious agenda. As it stands, I think he's doing the best he can. One year later, the sounds and images from that night--and what it meant to so many of us--still resonate.

Edited to fix the quote from "A Rose for Emily," which--despite multiple readings--I had misquoted. D'oh!

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