Monday news holding cell

What we’re witnessing in the Ukraine will go down in history for a number of reasons, not the least of which, for me, is illustrating how important an education in the arts is, especially for a spot in politics. Zelensky is not just a guy who knows how to work a camera, but also one who knows how to evoke and manipulate emotion to move hearts and minds. He’s smart enough to be a politician without being a career politician, and he therefore acts based on with his heart, but filtered through his critical thinking skills, as opposed to the usual strategic shilling for votes that goes on in politics. We need more like him. Worked in the Czech Republic as well. More poets, musicians, and clowns in power, pls.

The vultures descend on Leonard

So, I get that they’re trying to justify their literary necrophilia with a late life quote, but frankly, in late life the guy was desperate. He’d been ripped off while trying to find his way spiritually, and went back on tour and started releasing substandard books to recover. His final album was brilliant, but once it sold well, the people around him dug out the outtakes and scrips and scraps of creative slag and tried to sell that too. And now they’re doing the same with his writing. If he was so proud of this material, why did he not publish it himself? I don’t know. I hope I raise my own children better than this. And I hope whoever handles whatever literary legacy I might leave has a modicum of intellect untempted by capitalism. Make no mistake, publishers don’t do this sort of thing to “benefit fans and scholars”, they do it because they think they can make money from it. It’s a business decision, not an artistic one. And I suspect THAT’s why he didn’t publish this material in his lifetime. Anyone who tells you otherwise is engaged in marketing.

A Ballet of Lepers: A Novel and Stories includes short fiction, a radio play, and an early novel, all of which were written between 1956, when Cohen was still living in Montreal, and 1961, when he was living in Hydra, Greece.

“Leonard said before his death that his life’s true masterwork was his archive, which he kept meticulously for the benefit of fans and scholars one day to discover. I’m pleased that, with this book, his readers and listeners can begin that rich journey,” Robert Kory, trustee of the Leonard Cohen Family Trust, said in a release.

Thursday news roundup

Genre hoppers

A wee interview in Kirkus got me thinking. Here’s a woman who wrote SFF and who has now published a mainstream novel for adults. Mostly we see this going the other way. People like Marlon James, Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, etc, have been dipping their toes (and whole legs in some cases) into the spec fic waters for years, but I’ve seldom seen it go the other way. Does this mean we’re finally starting get rid of all these silly lines? I suppose not, if it’s still news. But interesting times, that it’s happening at all.

Beloved worldwide for her epic Ember in the Ashes fantasy series, Sabaa Tahir’s latest, All My Rage (Razorbill/Penguin, March 1), follows high school seniors Salahudin and Noor, who live in Juniper, a small California desert town. Flashbacks to Lahore, Pakistan, where Salahudin’s mother Misbah’s story began, provide context for his family’s current situation as financially struggling motel owners. The sole survivor of the earthquake that destroyed her village in Pakistan, Noor was brought to Juniper to live with her uncle, who runs a liquor store. Inseparable from childhood, the teens navigate family secrets as well as their currently strained friendship—and the fragile tendrils of something more. College applications and high school social dynamics sit alongside questions of faith, culture, racism, love, abuse, loyalty, betrayal, and more. Grounded in richly evoked settings, the book’s deep emotional honesty will speak to a broad swath of teen and adult readers.

When the movie is better than the book

A shitty little buzzfeed article brings up a good topic: when is the movie better than the book? Quite a few times, it turns out. Personally, having read the book and seen the film. I agree with many of these. Blade Runner, The Shining, 2001, Jaws, Fight Club. But can you think of more? The boys were just telling me that the Harry Potter movies fit into this category as well. I couldn’t get through the whole series (I did like book 3), because they were so bloated and poorly done towards the end, but I don’t doubt it.

Let kids read by themselves

In an LA Times letter to the editor, a former teacher advocates for letting kids read. This is a battle I’m going through myself right now. I have four kids — two read, two don’t. The youngest is in eighth grade and has yet to be assigned a book to read in his English class. IN HIS ENGLISH CLASS. When I approached the teacher to ask why it was January and they hadn’t yet read a book, I was first told that they in fact ARE reading a book. The Hunger Games. I checked with my boy. Nope, the book is being read aloud to them. Sometimes by the teacher, sometimes by a YouTube video of someone else reading the text. When I responded that this is in fact NOT reading a book, it’s passively listening (and we all know how well 13-year-old listen, esp during distance learning) to a book, I got a mishmash answer about learning outcomes and what amounts to a lowest common denominator. The entire system is being chipped away to create a future full of stupid people who are easy to fool into doing the bidding of big business. (cf Ottawa truckers). Anyway, I dig this teacher’s mojo.

To the editor: As a longtime teacher of kids having difficulty in school, I’m worried about The Times’ description of new L.A. Unified School District Supt. Alberto Carvalho as a leader “acutely focused on testing and other data to improve school and student performance.”

I just worry about how much of that “other data” involves how much time kids spend freely reading books of their choice.

My class was grouped as the “lowest scorers” in third grade. We started the day with an hour of silent reading. The kids chose the books to read. As a teacher, I showed them lots of possibilities for good reading.

And I told my talkative principal, “No interruptions, please.” The kids, who’d probably never seen an adult reading, saw me read during that hour.