01 June 2009

Look Harder

This summer has been a busy one (hence the complete lack of posting.) I've been going to class and working almost full time, preparing to go to England next month and thinking about my curriculum for the fall (not too much - the idea of getting ready to teach kind of scares the heck out of me.) Along with all of this, though, I've found the time to read about ten books in the last month. I bought a bunch at a sale the school bookstore was having and - miracle of miracles - all of them have been fantastic. I pulled each book at random off the shelves proving that, for the most part, you can actually judge a book by the quality of the cover!

My most recent read has been The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. The book is funny and exciting and well crafted - everything in the book is a set up and a pay off by the end. The characters are distinct and each has a different talent that comes in handy at the end. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. It's what would have happened if The Series of Unfortunate Events had been written more intelligently and with less pessimism.

Which, actually, brings me quite nicely to my point for the day. After I finished the first book I picked up the sequel. At the beginning of this book, Reynie (the main character) is having a discussion with Mr. Benedict about how frustrating it is to see that the world still has not changed much since their adventures in the previous novel. This is part of the conversation they have:

"Let me ask you: Have you ever had a dream in which, having spied a deadly
snake at your feet, you suddenly begin to see snakes everywhere - suddenly
realize, in fact, that you're surrounded by them?"

Reynie was surprised. "I have had that dream. It's a

"Indeed. And it strikes me as being rather like when a person first
realizes the extent of wickedness in the world. That vision can become
all-consuming - and in a way, it, too, is a nightmare, by which I mean that it
is not quite a proper assessment of the state of things. For someone as
observant as you, Reynie, deadly serpents always catch the eye. But if you
find that serpents are all you see, you may not be looking hard

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous
Trenton Lee Stewart
Paperback Edition, 37-38

I don't know if there's really anything else to add to what Mr. Benedict put so well. I have been trying recently to be better at focusing on the positive parts of my life. I'm trying not to gossip so much or be so quick to join in on negative conversation. It's true that there is no situation we can be in that complaining won't make it worse. The news is really, really good at the complaining thing. It all reminds me of that scene from Newsies where Jack is talking to Davy's family about headlines that make newspapers sell - they need words like "nude", "corpse" . . . etc. The people that complain, those squeaky wheels, get more attention than the wheels that are functioning just fine under the current pressure.
Semi-short post shorter: Always look on the bright side of life.

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