C has just started a class of contemporary fiction. It’s an abbreviated course, heavy in reading, but hey…it gives her 3 more university credits. One of the assigned books is Orwell’s 1984. She hasn’t read it yet.
I know, you’re shaking your head at my complete lack of guidance for my child.
Actually, I have to be truthful, I don’t want her to read it! I have this urge to save all my children from exposure to evil. And Big Brother is all evil. I do sometimes wonder why I feel like that. You would think that exposing them to books with a difficult subject matter, like 1984, the Diary of Anne Frank, even Deborah Ellis’ The Bread Winner, would communicate an important life lessons in a way I can’t. (Actually, I was very upset when the kids had to read The Diary of Anne Frank in high school, and, when C did something very stupid as a teen, I gave her The Bread Winner to read as a possible punishment…she loved it!) I can see you shaking your head and muttering, “Oh for god’s sake” under your breath.
I guess my “protect the children from difficult subject matter” instincts may come from my experience of having to flee the Czech Republic as a child.
I do waffle on!
Back to 1984…
We spent last autumn at West Cottage. It was so beautiful. The maples at the bottom of the garden shed mountains of leaves, the crab apple tree was absolutely resplendent with yellow fruit and the leaves on the cherry tree turned daily rainbows. I wanted to document it all and so, between enlarging bedrooms, raking up leaves and photographing everything in sight, I took time to make a small book to remind myself of that glorious October.
Being the junk collector that I am, the book is made from found pieces. A large, posted manila envelope and an ordnance survey map make the covers. Inside, the pages are papers from an old sketchbook. And it is filled with my autumnal photos and drawings and origami folds, found feathers, vintage photos, an old broach, buttons, thread and found poems made from the books “A Brief History of the Wellington Boot” and “1984”.
I found a copy of 1984 in the thrift store. It was missing the front cover and several pages, but the remaining pages were the most beautiful golden colour and had that soft-with-age feeling, you know, as if a breath could scatter the ashes.
I chose page 83/84. On those pages is Winston, paralysed with paranoia about the thought police, as he walks away from Mr Charrington’s shop with the glass paper weight in his pocket. Such emotionally charged pages. But my mind pulled invisible words from the sentences so the found poem reads like this:
Though I don’t recollect any moment
that I was going in the wrong direction
I halted, and stood for several minutes
It was curious, but
i was too paralyzed to move.
There was no retracing steps.
However – - ! i had already made up my mind
that the heart could be trusted.
so I turned to the right and walked on
humming to an improvised tune – -
On the opposite page is an analysis of Bach’s piano concerto in D minor with sketches of the last summer geraniums in watercolour pencils.
So here’s the point of this story: (Thanks for not shouting, “Get to the point already”)
The point is that something beautiful can come out of something frightening, ugly and even evil. Whether it’s a lesson, a growing experience, or just a nice memory. So I’ll encourage C to read on. After all, she’s already read To kill a Mockingbird, Into The Wild, Atonement and many others.
And loved them.
Maybe those books have had a hand in helping her become the beautiful young woman she is.