Thursday, February 28, 2013

Otter and Odder

Otter and Odder, by James Howe, was introduced to me recently by one of my undergraduate students. The story is about Otter who, looking for food, falls in love with the fish he is about to eat. Told by his community that this is not "the way of the otter," and characterized as "odd and getting odder," Otter asks himself, "What is right? What is wrong? What is natural? What is the way of the otter?"

Can a fish love an otter, when the way of the otter is to eat fish?

The story inspires thinking about social norms and the forces that impact the way we understand the world, changing moral and social values, the meaning of community, what it means for something to be "natural," the nature of love, and the relationship between individual desires and the demands of the community.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

An Angel for Solomon Singer

Cynthia Rylant's story An Angel for Solomon Singer is the story of Solomon Singer, who lives in a hotel for men in New York City, and doesn't like it. His room has no balcony or fireplace, and he cannot have a cat or dog, or even paint his walls a color of his choosing.

"It is important to love where you live, and Solomon Singer loved where he lived not at all, and it was this that drove him out into the street each night." He wanders the streets, and eventually ends up in a restaurant, where a friendly waiter takes his order and suggests he return again.

Solomon returns night after night. Eventually he finds that when he wanders the streets, on his way to the restaurant, they feel warm and beautiful, and that in the restaurant he feels he is home.

What is home? What makes a place a home? Do we need a home? Why or why not? Is being home about a place outside of us, or about something inside us? Can we be at home anywhere? Do homes change? Can a home become no longer a home? Does home mean the same thing to all people?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Michael Rosen's Sad Book

The nature of sadness. Michael Rosen's Sad Book describes how sadness feels and tries to understand it. "Sometimes sad is very big. It's everywhere. All over me." Michael Rosen's son, Eddie, died, and that, he tells us, is what makes him most sad.

"Sometimes I'm sad and I don't know why. It's just a cloud that comes along and covers me up." Rosen asks these questions: Where is sad? When is sad? Who is sad?

How do we respond to sadness? The book examines whether memories can make us feel less sad. And does it help to know that sadness affects everyone?