Archive for the ‘Literary’ Category

A Blessing of Unicorns

Some people collect stamps. Coins. Elephants. Beanie Babies.

I collect the names of groups of creatures. Odd, yes. Useful, no. Entertaining, often.

There are the typical, well-known ones: a Pod of Whales, a Gaggle of Geese, a Pride of Lions.

Some are especially fitting: a Crash of Rhinos, a Prickle of Porcupines, and a Smack of Jellyfish.

Beware the Murder of Crows, Mobs of Kangaroos, and the Shrewdness of Apes. And don’t rain on the Elephants’ Parade.

Feel free to join the Convocation of Eagles, the Congress of Ravens, or the Parliament of Owls. Appropriately, Larks form Exultations, Hummingbirds Charm, and Jays Scold.

There are Musters of Peafowl, Coteries of Prairie Dogs, and Romps of Otters. Sharks swim in Shivers, and Gnats form Clouds;  Clowders of Cats, Sleuths of Bears, Cetes of Badgers.  Ferrets have Businesses but Martens get Richness.

My all time favorite is a Blessing of Unicorns. The verdict is out on Dragons, but I’m partial to “Doom.”

Any you care to add?

C.S. Doemner


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It’s a couple weeks until summer, I can begin to feel it in the air whenever my students enter the room.  There’s a tenseness about.  Four weeks to clear absences  before they turn into truancies, four weeks left to lift grades before they enter that terribly concrete transcript.

For me, it means it’s time to plan a summer reading group.  This has become one of my favorite things about summer.  This year, we’re going to tackle some recent prize winners.  It seems good to know what’s being written now, what our generation is producing.  I’m curious to consider some of the particular follies and wisdom(s?) of our decade.

Interpreter of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri (Pulitzer, Hemingway/PEN: 2000)
The Sea – John Banville (Man Booker: 2005)
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz (Pulitzer: 2007)
Shadow of Sirius – W.S. Merwin (Pulitzer: 2009)
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel – Man Booker (2009) — if CH and I can persuade anyone else to read the 560 pages …
Tinkers – Paul Harding (Pulitzer: 2010)
A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan (Pulitzer 2011)

If you’re in the LA/La Mirada area and are interested in joining us for a session or two, let me know.


“The aesthetic impulse like the thirst for truth might well be called a disease.  It seldom, if ever, appears in a perfectly healthy man.”  (H.L. Mencken)

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It’s a great day in 9th grade Linguistic Studies when you can sit back and listen to your atheistic master teacher give a roughly coherent explanation of the Trinity to a roomful of students–who range from nominally or devoutly Catholic to religiously ambivalent.

So many of our attempts in this classroom are to get students to think about texts in a deeper way–in any deeper way  We’re less concerned that they’re getting the “correct” deep meaning out of the text, then that they are looking for a deep meaning somewhere.  Shakespeare is, of course, a fantastic author for this.  We can read themes and symbols into nearly every word if we want to, and we do.  Our goal is to get students to do the work of reading below the surface.  Once they are doing this, we can teach them how to do it better.

We want students to get used to the feeling of searching the text and finding stuff in it.  Our students inevitably read the throw-away interjection “ho” as a reference to hookers.  We have yet to correct them– as we’d prefer that they enjoy the feeling of “getting the joke”– the technical mistake is easily fixed later.  I’m sure you can attack this method from many angles, but I’m learning to see its benefits.

So, for the purposes of our reading this quarter, numbers are symbols.  Always.  As we we read through the Prince’s first speech, we stopped at “three civil brawls.”  Ms. C— notes that “three is an important number for Christians and Catholics … the most important number in fact.”  When asked why, students give us a primer of New Testament history.  The three crosses, the three days Jesus was in the grave, the three wise men, John 3:16, etc.  Finally, Ms. C— asks, what about when you cross yourself, what do you say?  The room erupts with “el padre ….” etc.  She proceeded to give a thirty second explanation of the the Trinity (including introducing most of them to the word Trinity for the first time) and to discuss the importance of unity in reference to the Trinity and the number three.

Yup.  It’s a good day.

Ms. H.

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I’m lesson planning this morning, researching and typing out detailed notes for the introduction to Shakespeare workshops I’ll be teaching next week.  Sitting at LA Mill Coffee, a couple miles from our apartment, I’m reminded that there are a whole set of people in the world who spend their mornings at coffee shops–in the middle of the week.  I’m not one of these people, and I feel a little out of place– except during spring break.  Then I can turn into an artsy, tea drinking, pastry consuming, note scribbling LA coffee house-ster.

Besides trying to sneak in some fun reading this week, I’ve been tackling all the “forbidden love” novels that my students will be reading in their literature circles while we study Romeo and Juliet in class.  With the exception of the last three on the list, the novels are terrible.  I only have to slog through The Notebook before I can finally graduate to the three books I’m excited to (re)read.  I hope my students appreciate my sacrifice.

Hard Love
Like Water for Chocolate
The Reader
Romiette and Julio
The Notebook
Their Eyes Were Watching God
All the Pretty Horses

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Dr. Todd Pickett:

Fyodor Dostoevsky — The Brothers Karamazov, Notes from Underground
Thomas Merton — No Man is an Island; Ascent to Truth
Stanley Hauerwas — Resident Aliens; Truthfulness and Tragedy
Jean-Pierre DeCaussade — Self Abandonment to Divine Providence; The Sacrament of the Present Moment
Eugene Peterson — The Contemplative Pastor, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, The Jesus Way.
Wendell Berry — Jayber Crow, Essays & Poems

R. Card Hyatt

Cross Channel — Julian Barnes
I Saw Ramallah — Mourid Barghouti
Waiting for the Barbarians — J.M. Coetzee
The Hunger Games (trilogy) — Suzanne Collins
White Noise — Don Delillo

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From Dr. Aaron Kleist:

Crime & Punishment
Anna Karenina
King Lear
Brothers Karamazov
The Death of Ivan Ilych, Signet Classics edition
Book I of Notes from Underground
Beowulf, Heaney’s translation

From Dr. John Mark Reynolds:

1. That Hideous Strength
2. The Idiot
3. The White Horse
4. Republic
5. Nicholas and Alexandra
6. A Night to Remember

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I requested book recommendations from various people this morning. As I receive responses, I plan on posting them here so that I have them all documented in a single location. And maybe they’ll interest you too. If you have books, articles, blogs, poems, etc. that you would like to recommend to me, add them in the comments’ section.  — C.S.D.

From Dr. Darrell Passwater:

1. Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard
2. How People Grow by John Townsend
3. The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
4. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
5. Integrity by Henry Cloud

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