Saturday, June 24, 2006

Conversing with Text

Just a step away from talking to yourself is this notion of talking to text. We're lucky to have a site of National Writing Project in our area (Bisti Writing Project–that's pronounced Biss-TIE, not BEE-stee!) It's a wonderful group of teachers who write and they're kind enough to let this writer who teaches hang out with them. We're in the middle of our summer institute right now and one of the pieces of writing we're all working on a "conversation with text." Such a simple idea. Read something. Write in response to the something you've read. Naturally I'm getting glassy-eyed trying to decide what text I want to respond to, and how. Today, I think I'm settling on a George Orwell collection of essays, Why I Write. But then there's also Emma Larkin's Finding George Orwell in Burma.

Why Orwell? you might ask. He didn't think much of the children's books of his time. In a 1936 essay he wrote, "Modern books for children are rather horrible things, especially when you see them in the mass." Wonder what he'd have to say about–hmm, let's see, picture book gems by Madonna!

Possibly it's that other George (the Shrubby one) who's making my thoughts turn to Orwellian themes. Here's a passage from Orwell's essay, "Shopkeepers at War."

"...the...moneyed class, unwilling to face a change in their way of life, had shut their eyes to the nature of Fascism and modern war. And false optimism was fed to the general public by the gutter press, which lives on its advertisements and is therefore interested in keeping trade conditions normal."

Ah, Eric Arthur Blair, where are you when we need you?

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