I was just brushing my teeth and had an interesting revelation...
[Funny, isn't it, the illuminating power of brushing one's teeth? I highly recommend it... for those of you who don't brush, you should try it. It's fun! and good for you!]
This week is turning into 12th grade AP English redux. Last night and today comprised one of Lady Stip's trademark "nightmares of death and destruction," as I stayed up 'til 3 AM, then got up at 8:30, to finish a paper-- on a poem about death, no less. Then, as luck would have it, I had to spend the rest of the day (when I wasn't in class) prepping for a Russian test I wasn't prepared for at. all. (So why am I up right now at 2 AM? God only knows.)
And there were other parallels. First off, we're reading Hamlet in my Shakespeare class. It's a great play, and even better the second time around. Then, in my British Lit survey, we're reading (well, skimming, unfortunately) Tennyson, and one of the poems we're studying is the classic "Ulysses":
...Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
That last couplet has been quoted and analyzed so often it's become almost cliched, but it's lost none of its power since I first read it in the Perrine's poetry book. Tennyson is great. So are Keats and Wordsworth. I really need to read more of their stuff.
While we're on the subject, I don't miss high school all that much, but I do kind of miss the classes. I miss the days where you could sit down every day and talk about a book, or analyze a poem in real depth, rather than going to a lecture in which the professor tries to cram in so many texts and authors that we are unable to get down to the good stuff in any of them. Or going to a "discussion" section where 3/4 of the time is taken up by ridiculous quizzes, stupid procedural questions, and dumb-ass comments by people who don't know what they're talking about, and lukewarm responses from a TA who doesn't really care.
I learned a bit ago that two of my classes-- African-American Literature and Russian Literature-- are somewhat connected, in the form of the founder of modern Russian literature, Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin (Алекса́ндр Серге́евич Пу́шкин).
Pushkin's father descended from one of the Russian gentry's oldest families who traced their history to the 12th century, while his mother's grandfather was Ibrahim Petrovich Gannibal, a former Eritrean who was abducted when he was a child and ended up in Russia and became a great military leader, engineer and nobleman after his adoption by Peter the Great.
And from James Weldon Johnson's Preface to The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922):
Is it not curious to know that the greatest poet of Russia is Alexander Pushkin, a man of African descent; that the greatest romancer of France is Alexandre Dumas, a man of African descent; and that one of the greatest musicians of England is Coleridge-Taylor, a man of African descent?
The fact is fairly well known that the father of Dumas was a Negro of the French West Indies, and that the father of Coleridge-Taylor was a native-born African; but the facts concerning Pushkin's African ancestry are not so familiar.
When Peter the Great was Czar of Russia, some potentate presented him with a full-blooded Negro of gigantic size. Peter, the most eccentric ruler of modern times, dressed this Negro up in soldier clothes, christened him Hannibal, and made him a special body-guard.
But Hannibal had more than size, he had brain and ability. He not only looked picturesque and imposing in soldier clothes, he showed that he had in him the making of a real soldier. Peter recognized this, and eventually made him a general. He afterwards ennobled him, and Hannibal, later, married one of the ladies of the Russian court. This same Hannibal was great-grandfather of Pushkin, the national poet of Russia, the man who bears the same relation to Russian literature that Shakespeare bears to English literature.
Here is an extremely interesting and informative PBS Frontline page on Pushkin's genealogy.
I got an email from Amazon today...
As someone who has recently purchased literary classics, you might like to know that the Penguin Classics Library is now available in one complete collection--only at Amazon.com. "The Penguin Classics Library Complete Collection"
List Price: $13,317.74
Our Price: $7,989.99
You Save: $5,327.75 (40%)
Dang, if I had $8,000 lying around, I'd definitely go for it. But where would I keep it? You'd need a pretty big bookshelf:
From Edwin A. Abbott to Emile Zola, the 1,082 titles in the Penguin Classics Complete Library total nearly half a million pages--laid end to end they would hit the 52-mile mark. Approximately 700 pounds in weight, the titles would tower 828 feet if you stacked them atop each other--almost as tall as the Empire State Building.
Whoa. Someday, someday.
But what's up with the shipping? When I place it in my cart:
Order Summary Items: $7,989.99 Shipping & Handling: $3.99 Total Before Tax: $7,993.98 Estimated Tax: $0.00 Order Total: $7,993.98
$3.99? That's gotta be the best deal on shipping in the history of e-commerce.
Even Weird Al loves to read! Hmm, I wonder what he's been up to. The world is a dim, dark place indeed without him to brighten our lives with his crazy antics.
OK, I know it's a horrible, stupid, insensitive title for this entry. It doesn't even make sense! But Arthur Miller died last night. Farewell to a great American writer. I adore "Death of a Salesman" and, to a lesser extent, "The Crucible." I should probably read more of his stuff. But for now there's other stuff to read. I'll put it on my list.
Rest in peace, Mr. Miller.