in which the vampire is switched out for morality

i really think that the books have less to do with vampires than they seem {and i understand that they sure seem to have a lot to do with vampires, yeah, got that}.  yes, in the last two books, more of the story hinges on it, so i haven’t quite worked out my thinking that i’m about to share and how it could apply to eclipse and breaking dawn yet.  i will work it out though.

because i don’t think this is “really” a story about teenage vampire love. i think the vampire bit could almost be switched out and the story could stay the same.  i think the vampire bit is really telling the story of morality, in one of the wildest contradictions {i do love a contradiction}.  the author’s point of view affects my synthesis:  i have read that she’s of a certain religious denomination.  hm, i have to go and read more about this, but i’m thinking it’s playing a part.   for example, think of all the “rules” edward places on their physical relationship because he’s a vampire and fears he could hurt her too easily since he’s preternaturally strong and she’s ‘silk over glass’.  what else would draw those same lines, if they weren’t defined by venom and bloodlust and bonecrushing strength? ahh, do you see it?  morals, modesty, temptation, “right” vs. “wrong”.  could this tension in their relationship exist without one of them being one of the cold ones? could there still be the internal struggle, the contradiction, the destiny and the question of souls?  can you see what i mean?

go further {and i have sticky notes in the book about this, but i haven’t made it out of chapter 1 yet here, so they will surface eventually} – think or re-read all or any scenes in which edward might kiss bella.  there is such a reverence for this act in how they are written, and bella’s reactions are saturated with a crazy degree of amazement that this closeness brings.  it’s a pretty rare occurance in modern stories:  one pretty innocent kiss, or even brush of cheekbones, totally unhinging a person and inciting elation and gratitude.  hm. what does this remind me of?  where else have i met this belief of reverence for expressions of love, the containers we are defined by?

now think about the story and it’s characters, a juxtapose that with the notion of “family”.  even and especially the relationships between the members of the Cullen family {and remembering that we are hit over the head with the notion that the words “relationship” and “vampire” have no cause to be uttered together, and adding “family” into the sentence almost sends it into farce} — bloodthirsty, predatory horrors of the night have bonded in love and monogomously mated for life (being centuries) and become something to which our protagonists aspire — Carlisle and Esme, Rosalie and Emmet, Alice and Jasper.  Jacob and Bella are perfectly matched as “friends”, in harmony and cosmic union (see any Team Jacob vs Team Edward commentary).  Mike ends up with Jessica, Angela and Ben are considerately nudged into their relationship {thank you Midnight Sun}, Charlie and Billy natter like an old married couple until Charlie finds his happily-ever-after with Sue, but not before showing us the most amicable, forgive-and-forget, parental split ever – even he and Renee are companionably bonded in their love and concern for their daughter, despite it all falling apart so seriously once upon a time that she practically fled to a different hemisphere with babe in arms.  the vampires that come to stand witness come in pairs and/or leave in committed pairs.  even the wives arrive from Italy. this is some pretty serious representation for “family”.

so, now we add it up – morals, modesty, fidelity, love, marriage, wedding nights, conception after marriage, rings, witness, imprinting=perfect matching=true love.  yes, it’s all about love, but it adds up to so much more than that.

and we haven’t even gotten to the “good” vampires contradiction, in which vampires are created and unable to choose their fate, do choose to overcome their “true” nature that they are “born” with in order to preserve their souls, protect human life and deny their monster qualities. it’s ringing some original sin type of bells.

this is not a fully developed thesis, clearly, and there are lots of events in the story that tell the vampire story that may or may not work with this idea of symbolism and synthesis, but like i said, i am sharing my thinking.  first thought, best thought, you know {although in the case of synthesis, i find that first thought really can take a while to come}.  and, revision can be a beautiful thing! {contradiction xo}

itsy bitsy inferences

I’ve been thinking that it seems to me that a good chunk of the book depends on me inferring things to keep up with the story. Not sure if this is Stephanie Meyer’s “style” or if this is intentional, or if this story demands this, or if I just have noticed how often I am asked to do this. In any case, I’m making itsy bitsy inferences right and left.

Here’s where I am stuck. “We” seem to spend a lot of time telling our kids to infer thinking/understanding around the “big ideas” {and I, I notice I spend a lot of time pushing my inferences towards synthesis}, and that smaller inferences aren’t as meaningful, those smaller inferences don’t get us to Level 4 thinking…

So, yeah. Here’s where I am stuck today: In real reading, I have to infer to keep up. I don’t really have anything to think, yet, in Chapter 1 about the big ideas — I am just trying to get my sea legs under me here. My Forks legs. I need to infer to keep up. Kind of like these early connections. These are small but necessary, but meaningful. These are the in-reading things I think some of our kids miss in comprehension if they don’t already know to do it, or how to do it. They’re tiny things, these inferences, but big. {I do love a contradiction.} I am wondering if maybe this changes with the length of the text. I am looking thirteen pages into Twilight. In a picture story book, thirteen pages could nearly be the whole thing. I could/should {shcould} be inferrring to main idea or whatever biggie I see by thirteen pages, if there are only eighteen in all. Thirteen pages into Twilight, we haven’t even seen the Cullens in the cafeteria yet. I ain’t gots no big idea. But I do gots lots of itsy bitsy inferences that I probably couldn’t move forward fully meaningfully without making sense of. It remains to be seen if any of these little guys add up for big thinking later…

p9 back to Bella and tiny Forks high school vs. Phoenix in the last paragraph on the page and the first sentence on the next: “I would be the new girl from the big city, a curiosity, a freak.” I am inferring here that Bella feels that she will ‘stand out’ more here in Forks than a new kid at a huge high school like the one she left in Phoenix. She goes on to say almost as much on p10, “And if I couldn’t find a nich in a school with three thousand people, what were my chances here?” but not exactly said. Still with this school business, when she says on p13, “Where was the feel of the institution? I wondered nostalgically. Where were the chain-link fences, the metal detectors?” I have to infer that her school in Phoenix was like this, and so I can maybe infer that some/many big city schools are like this. The use of “nostalgic” lets me know she is thinking of something in her past experience, and I have seen representations of such schools depicted in movies and television shows, and have seen the fences around urban schools, without having this type of school environment in my own history. I don’t really think I need to name the shows and movies, or the cities or neighbourhoods I’ve seen fences in — I know what I know, you know. SO – not big meaty inferences, but help me to see the context and understand more about the change that Bella has made in her life by coming to Forks.

p15 “I went through different arguments with her in my head while the teacher droned on.” I think I can make a choice here, as a reader. I can go on and infer, mostly from my schema, what these arguments might be. We are never told and the story doesn’t come back to this, so I am not predicting. Also, because we don’t come back to this, it’s not terribly important whether or not I imagine/infer these arguments. It’s sort of entertaining, I can indulge for a minute with part of my mind, but it’s really, really not central and I can tell that, so I also don’t have to do it at all. Moving on, then. But wait, what I do know now is that I am able to affect my understanding of the text and what is not written by my level of participation. Ah, this is important! As a reader, I need to know this, and then be able to transfer it, and apply it in other instances/texts where it will matter more than this paragraph.

There’s more but that’s enough for tonight. I am going to go and let Ray Lamontagne and Jason Mraz battle it out on my ipod. And a little Iron & Wine in there too, of course.

beginning with connections, as we so often do…

Connections: Ch 1 (not to be suggesting that jerking through novels only by chapters is the best way to model “real reading”, it’s just working as a starting point, and hey, we gotta start somewhere and we sure as hell don’t all start with perfection, so back off (sorry, talking to myself there)) – my symbol for coding the text with a connection is X, by the way.

I think some of my guiding questions for this reading are to figure out more explicitly some ideas around the questions “WHY do i like this story?” and “WHY do i care?” and “WHAT makes me care?” (with thanks to Chris).  Making connections will help me relate myself to the text to answer these questions.

“The thing…”
Not a very significant X but one that helps me understand the comment all the same: p7, Bella thinks of “The thing” as having potential as a nickname for the old truck.  To understand what she means and how this could apply to the truck, I have draw on my prior knowledge of “the thing” as it is used to describe horror movies or monsters or creepy beings in horror movies.  Doing that helps me visualize a zombie like, creepy, possessed inanimate object with it’s own motives.  This helps me grasp the tenor of the conversation a little and makes it more “real”.  That’s a lot of words to describe understanding two words.  There you have it.

“Forks High School had a frightening total of only three hundred and fifty-seven — now fifty-eight — students”
p9 I notice that it helps me to make a connection to my own high school experience and population here to better undertstand the last paragraph where Bella is reflecting on the population of Forks High School.  I also inferred here and my connection is useful to that, but I will cross-post this.  My own high school had 1000 or so students which seemed massive to me, and still does (contemplating any gathering of 1000 teenages is pause-worthy), so putting Forks and it’s 358 student body alongside my prior knowledge helps me understand that Bella sees this as very tiny and problematic.  This itself if inferential, but anyway.  It also helps me to draw on my schema for small communities too, so I can better understand what she’s saying about grandparents having been toddlers together.  Similarly on p 12 I am drawing on my knowledge of Northern Ontario highways and towns to relate to her comment that the school, like most other things in town, was just off the highway. IIIIII know what she’s talking about!  Not a big connection, but also helps me visualize Forks.  I have seen similar places.

“For some reason, my temper was hardwired to my tear ducts.  I usually cried when I was angry, a humiliating tendency.”
p25  I thought “Me too!” or maybe more frustration, on my part, but close enough to make me empathetic and engaged with this girl, again. Also related is a connection on p 10 I notice I am making connections to Bella’s self-image, when she describes humiliating herself at sports (totally me).  This helps me to generate some empathy for who Bella is, and increases my engagement with her personal story, since I can see a little of myself in her.

So far…. making connections and using my prior knowledge has helped me get engaged with the character, visualize the setting and understand events better.  This is good to know.

gathering my thoughts…

Keep in mind this is a work in progress, as in, I have no idea what I’m doing with this blog thing and and working it out as I go. Here is the first go.

28 pages in, at the end of the first chapter seems like a logical place to stop and take stock. I have generated 19 sticky notes in those pages and now I have to decide the best way to share my journey here. 19 posts seems excessive, so how to group them, and/or summarize them, a way that will work for the rest of the book as well? hm.

I could gather “connections” and address them together, and “inferences” together as well. a lot of my sticky notes are those two things. I am noticing that since I am re-reading this book, i am making lots of connections to events in the subsequent books, noticing significance of events or comments that i would not have have the same background knowledge for the first time through to see them in that light. that might be an interesting post category too. and then there are a few miscellaneous type notes of things that bug me or… that could be another category too.

i’m making no promises

the plan is to leave tracks of my thinking through a text and share them here.  i think we can teach these processes, skills and strategies when we take the time to be conscious of them in our own reading, so here’s where i am a-gonna try to do just that.   i will do this through many means, some of which will be

>coding the text (through tags) and blog posting those pauses
>blog posting my margin notes, sticky notes and jot notes,
>blog posting my working ideas about (in no particular order) inferences, main idea, synthesis, evaluation, connections, questionning the text, author’s purpose, point of view
>reflecting on figurative language and other reading like a writer commentaries

This is my philosophy on reading

Real reading is making sense of text.  Making sense of it in a way that matters.  To ourselves, the reader.  Think of yourself as a reader.  When you make sense of a text that does not matter to you in any way, the words and meaning may slip through your mind like water through the fingers of your cupped hand, like they do mine.  I read it, I understand it, and it’s gone.  An indifferent shrug of information.  If there is no place for the meaning of the text in ourselves, we don’t really hang on to it.  Real reading is making sense that sticks.  It bonds the text to our own minds, spirits and souls and forges something new.  A new you, a new perspective to bring to bear on life, a new awareness.  We read, and read and read, in search, almost, for these texts that will stick and matter.  The process of reading is enjoyable, so we continue to pursue the story and the activity and rejoice when we find a text that makes us sing.  I can think of no other reason to explain how I enjoy reading Maeve Binchy novels, yet I cannot distinguish one from the other and cannot speak to how they essentially matter to me.  I enjoyed them, then I closed the cover and picked up a different book, still with hope in my heart.  Reading for enjoyment holds the place of real reading that sticks, like a zero holds the place for a quantity that does not yet apply.  This is the journey of real reading.

What matters to me may not be the same as what matters to you.  Maeve Binchy may define and explain your very existence.  Robert Ludlum may illuminate your very core beliefs about how the world works.  Not so much, for me. This is the beauty of reading, and the beauty of a society of individuals.  This is also the beauty of the comprehension strategies our brains employ to make sense of texts, that allow and demand that we each bring ourselves forward to meet the text and judge compatibility and influence.  I am not a researcher or writer that has worked intimately with the data and research behind these ideas.  I merely apply them.  I am merely willing now to read metacognitively, out loud, so to speak, to examine what matters to me as I read to make it real or not, what wholes or pieces of the whole stick or wash away.

Join me on my journey.  Jump in, if you wish.  Journey on your own.  Only know that everything and anything I say is subject to change, revision, expansion and deletion.  It’s a journey, I’m no expert.  All I know is that I feel oddly buoyant about it all.