The Ambivalent Memoirist: Obsessions, Digressions, Epiphanies - Sandra Hurtes

This memoir recounts, as of course all memoirs do, moments in the authors life and times. Hurtes focuses on her strained relationship with her parents, their clinginess versus her desires to be independent, and a perhaps more strained relationship between her work life and her desire to be a famous writer. Incredibly well-written with very short chapters of quick snapshots throughout her adult life, the story provides both hope in achieving the life you want as well as stern warning as we recognize her sometimes self-sabotaging through an obstinance to rebel while at the same time wallow in regret over it. The writers life is not a glamorous one, nor an easy one, revolving around short-term writing assignments and slave labor teaching jobs. The work is a must read for those struggling with the adjunct lifestyle, and those interested in (or needing dissuasion from) becoming writers. It is also a powerful piece for independent minded women struggling to find their own voice, as well as poignant reflections for those that grew up in the shadow of Holocaust survivors, this book being part of the last generation that will be able to recount such events. Filled with clever and often hysterical turns of phrases (“hipsters take note – I had Brooklyn first!”), and painfully vivid memories of lost parents, my criticism is one of the author is probably already aware of, that despite the honesty of the work there are gaps to a larger story. It is in these gaps I believe a true novel awaits, yearning to break free of self-imposed restraints and self-criticism and doubt, so that the fuller story can be told. Perhaps one of the funnier(?) ironies to the tale is that the author, so eager to break away from family that wants to simply assist her in becoming herself and to show her love the only way they knew how: through random if obtrusive displays of assistance which she found stifling, and yet what has the author herself become, but someone whose writing is a gateway for others to find their own voice, and whose job it is to assist those who care nothing for writing, with all it formalities of grammar, and see no purpose in it, in order to help them become better people and to give them the skills, knowledge, and assistance they may not want, know they need, and/or certainly never asked for, simply so they can focus on their other more pressing pursuits.

Because the tale(s) jumps in time, in both the historical record and the more contemporary musings, it can be a bit jarring for the casual reader meandering through a short chapter here and there (I couldn't put it down, but others might not be reading it on vacation), especially in instances where she writes that Halfway Home is going to be referred to at HH from this point on, only to be spelt out at least four more times. Writers, pessimists (the latters aren't always the formers even if the reverse is usually true), and the perpetually envious like myself, will enjoy her constant begrudging of others' success, but I question if Hurtes actually recognizes that the success stories of others who took the roads she didn't are minuscule and far between, rather than just being a device to illustrate her mentality. Check her out at sandrahurtes.blogspot.com and/or @SHurtes

 

Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller - Joseph Lambert

Am I the only person on the planet who never saw The Miracle Worker (I don't even know if that's the actual name)? I really was impressed with the story that doesn't simply focus on the amazing person of the young Keller, but the likewise impressive teacher, Sullivan, who had quite the hard life. Nicely drawn and colored, Lambert does some interesting work with visuals to attempt to represent how the blind and deaf Keller may have mentally pieced together her world (and yes, I know any attempt to use visuals to show how a blind person might "see" the world seems very off) thanks to her partially blind--and very angry--teacher. A well told, amazing tale that doesn't hold back on controversy. 

Work n' Play on Long Island

Who says you can't mix work and pleasure? Ok, everyone, but that didn't stop me from inviting some work colleagues out to Long Island to enjoy a day on the beach as well as discussing work related topics to enhance our lives and build camaraderie. While we might not have solved all our adjunct woes--or any of them--we did make some headway on what we need to do to improve our lot (and played frisbee in the ocean!). Thanks for joining me guys.

Holiday party status check: Your place in the pecking order.

Holiday parties are a great way to remind you how replaceable you are. Take coworkers who were friendly the day before: The untenured actively ignore you, newly tenured purposely insult you, and full professors just can't be bothered talking with you. Adjuncts eventually get herded like cattle into a little circle in the corner. Who cares! There's free food.

To Teach: The Journey, in Comics – William Ayers

Ayers discusses his pedagogical philosophy and provides examples from his time as an elementary school teacher as well as stories of other teachers. It is rather illuminating, especially for those (read: just about everyone) who take teachers for granted or are unaware of what they have to endure. Still, as a teacher and a comicwright, I found it too idealistic (which I blame in part for the incredible 50% drop out rate of teachers after one year) and that it wasn't so much a comic as a treatise supported by illustrations. And maybe I'm the only one to think so, but the Ayers avatar reminded me too much of Scott McCloud's depiction in his guides to understanding comics.