Jeans with Holes, Illustrated Men, and Fairy Tales of the Strangest Sort

I don’t have a story to tell tonight or anything particular I want to talk about but for some reason I feel like talking about something, so hmmm… I’ll guess I’ll just be unparticular and talk about whatever random, non-specific thing comes to mind.

My Favorite Pair of Jeans
After my lament about growing up and trading my old torn jeans for my new colored pants, my friend Stephanie dug up an old photo of me wearing the pants that I loved so.

I don’t know what I like most about this photo–the awesomeness of the jeans, the fact that my face is full of braces, the subtle rainbow hair-ribbon you can just make out in the corner of the photo, Steph’s U.S. Navy poster that she got during our Closeup trip to Washington D.C., or the fact that we’re lounging on her bed most-definitely listening to CDs from the huge CD case at my feet. Ha, what good times. But thank god they’re over.

From This Outer Edge of Life, Looking Back
I finished The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury a couple of weeks back and it was (and is) a wonderful collection. There is one story, Kaleidoscope, about a group of men whose ship is lost and they all end up flying different directions in space, knowing they’re about to die, and even though each man is alone they can still hear each others’ voices over their headsets. The entire story is haunting for obvious reasons but I found this passage especially so…

‘That isn’t important,’ said Hollis. And it was not. It was gone. When life is over it is like a flicker of bright film, an instant on the screen, all of its prejudices and passions condensed and illuminated for an instant on space, and before you could cry out, ‘There was a happy day, there a bad one, there an evil face, there a good one,’ the film burned to a cinder, the screen went dark.

From this outer edge of life, looking back, there was only one remorse, and that was only that he wished to go on living. Did all dying people feel this way, as if they had never lived? Did life seem that short, indeed, over and done before you took a breath? Did it seem this abrupt and impossible to everyone, or only to himself, here, now, with a few hours left to him for thought and deliberation?

Makes me wonder how Bradbury felt when his time really did come. I wonder if he was ready for it, since he’d written about the end so many times. Of course, if this passage is any indication of course he wasn’t ready for it. It’s sad. But also lovely that he knew what life meant, that he felt its value and its loss. Not everyone has that.

I Would Rather  Have Something Living Than All The Treasures In the World
I’ve started taking a MOOC (Massive, Online, Open, Course which means a free online course from Corsera and the University of Michigan) called Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World.

I’m taking it, in part for work, because I work in higher education and I’m curious about these MOOCs and whether or not they’re really worth anyone’s time. (There’s been so much hype about them, it’s hard not to be skeptical.) But I’m also taking it for myself, because as an English major who has long been wandering the world, lost and separated from my classes and discussions, I thought I’d check it out and see if I can get a bit of that academia back that I’ve been missing.

Right now, we’re reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales and they’ve been fun. Ever since I discovered Kelly Link’s short stories, Aimee Bender, and the collection My Mother She Killed Me, Father He Ate Me, I’ve been a tad obsessed with fairy tales.  However, I’ve been a bit backwards in my reading and have been reading all the modern adaptations of the classics rather than the classics themselves. So now, here’s my chance to read the originals.

A lot of the writing in Grimm’s tales is in that very matter-of-fact tone that most fairy tales are known for–like one of my favorite endings, “And so they were all dead together.” I like this tone. I like that the simplicity of the tales’ delivery is part of what makes them both fun and disturbing. But some of the passages and the stories I’ve taken the most notice of are the ones where a little bit of poetry and that more “fancy” language comes out. It’s like the emotion is there, just under the surface of all that matter-of-factness–and it can’t help but sneak out from time to time.

Like in the beginning of The Frog Prince

In the old times, when it was still of some use to wish for the thing one wanted

Or in Faithful John when the prince sets eyes upon a picture of a beautiful princess…

“My love for her is so great that if all the leaves of the forest were tongues they could not utter it!”

Or when Rumpelstilskin explains why he wants the poor girl’s first child and not her riches…

“No, I would rather have something living than all the treasures in the world.”

It’s so sad. I almost feel bad for Rumpelstilskin. He does seem a rather lonely fellow, even if he does want to steal away some poor girl’s first born child. Especially because he wants to steal away her child. And the princes’ odd tongue metaphor is rather sweet. And the beginning of the Frog Prince is so perfectly bittersweet. It hints that now, these times, it’s not worth wishing for things. Wishes don’t come true now, so it’s not even worth trying. But oh, once, though the stories were often harsh and cruel and bitter (just like our real world today is), once wishes were worth making. There’s a sad kind of beauty there.

Needless to say, I’m enjoying the stories. The course itself, I’ll wait to pass judgement on. But, hey, if it gets me to read more and be disciplined, then it’s worth my time I suppose.

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