I Need a New Butt

i need a new butt

I Need a New Butt by Dawn McMillan. Illustrated by Ross Kinnaird. Originally published in 2012. 32 Pages. Official summary, from Goodreads:

A young boy suddenly notices a big problem — his butt has a huge crack! So he sets off to find a new one. Will he choose an armor-plated butt? A rocket butt? A robot butt? Find out in this quirky tale of a tail, which features hilarious rhymes and delightful illustrations. Children and parents will love this book — no ifs, ands, or butts about it!

This is as much a rant about low-quality children’s literature as it is a book review.  Our local grocery store has a small section with various books available for sale. To their credit, there is as much inspirational reading as there are new and popular novels, children’s books, and reading about health. Recently, I noticed this book and thought how silly it looked, but my husband and I stood there and read it nonetheless.

He, being something of a kid at heart, found the first couple of pages funny in the way he might have when he was a kid. Boys and their bathroom humor! However, as it went on, it was increasingly clear to both of us that this was a terrible book, by almost any objective standard.

By way of disclosure, I can be something of a literary snob when it comes to children’s, fictional and humorous literature. My mind is open when reading nonfiction in a way that it simply is not when reading novels and children’s literature. Fiction should have some redeeming value and a children’s book should do more than making a child chuckle. It should certainly do that, but with some sophistication of thought, and “I need a new butt because mine has a crack!” doesn’t pass muster.

The interesting thing about this book, and its sequel, is how well it was received on Goodreads. It is possible that I overestimated the literary tastes of the Goodreads community!

To make myself clear, I’m not against silliness in children’s literature. I loved reading both Dr. Suess and even Sandra Boynton to my kids when they were very young. It could be that the whole idea of a book resting on the humor of one’s butt crack rubs me the wrong way 🙂 , but I look at this book and its runaway success as just another example of the coarsening of our culture. Here is the question of the day:

Is there a place for this kind of thing in children’s literature? Or am I overreacting here?

2 out of 5 stars

Word Nerd Wednesday: Gentrification

Lest you fear I am insulting your intelligence, dear readers, let me explain myself. I  know that we all know, by now, what the word gentrification means. It’s become a household term over the past 10 years. On the off chance that there is someone reading who isn’t quite sure what the word means, let’s start this discussion with a definition:

gentrification, noun: The process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces earlier usually poorer residents.

This post isn’t about my thoughts on the subject of gentrification. To begin to try and untangle my overlapping and complex perspectives on the subject is not in keeping with the spirit of Word Nerd Wednesday. The reason I have chosen this particular term is two-fold. The first is that the first time I heard it (nearly a decade ago now), I assumed it had something to do with geriatrics. In retrospect, I can see how silly an assumption that was, but it was what I’d assumed. I still have to do something of a mental reset when I hear it, which is why it fascinated me enough to look into its etymology, and that is why I chose gentrification for this week’s Word Nerd Wednesday installment.

According to etymology online, the word gentrification has no etymology to speak of. The sum total of the entry is that the word was recorded as being first used in 1972.  It also says that early 19th Century persons are recorded with first having used the word gentrify, although no context is provided. When I looked up the etymology of the word gentrify, I got kicked back to gentrification.

The mysterious arrival and ubiquitous usage of a word with no etymological history of note fascinates me. It leaves me wondering how many other words in our lexicon, past or present, are unable to be traced back to the Romance languages from which most English words are derived.

Just a thought.

 

 

 

 

How to Be Happy Though Married

I was in Barnes and Noble this morning to pick up Mile Rowe’s The Way I Heard It for 50% off the sticker price. On my way to the cash register, I stopped at the bargain books table and found an interesting little volume for $2.99:

how to be happy though married

It’s a book of quotes taken from everyone from Aristotle to Ovid to Einstein about the pleasures and pains of married life. The artwork -including sketches, paintings, and photographs- add to the humor and thoughtfulness of the quotes. It was a fun way to spend my lunch break. I was able to read through the entire thing in about 30 minutes. Here are some of the quotes from different sections within the book.

Section I: The Pleasures of Marriage

Marriage may often be a stormy lake, but celibacy is almost always a muddy horse-pond.~Thomas Love Peacock, Mellincourt, 1817

There were several quotes in this section that made me audibly chuckle, such as this one:

Five or six years of married life will often reduce a naturally irascible man to so angelic a condition that it would hardly be safe to trust him with a pair of wings ~ How to be Happy Though Married, 1895

My experience differs, but who wants a marriage to an angel, anyway? A saint? Sure! An angel, not so much. One last quote, and probably my favorite,  from this section:

There is nothing more admirable, than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.~ Homer, The Odyssey, c 8th Century B.C.

Section II: The Pains of Marriage

By all means, marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher. ~ Socrates, 4th Century B.C.

That made me laugh. Another from the pains of marriage:

Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage.~ Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911.

Huh. Interesting book title, no? I suspect a lot of people probably agree with him. Of course, this is what happens when we forget that marriage, not courtship, is where love really blossoms.

Of all the actions of a man’s life, his marriage doth least concern other people; yet of all actions of our life, it is the most meddled with by other people. ~ John Selden, English Scholar (1584-1654)

Section III: Hints for Husbands

This first one is a riff on the barefoot and pregnant trope, I suppose:

According to the old custom, Egyptian women did not wear shoes; this was so that they should spend all day at home. With most women, if you take away their gilded shoes and bracelets and anklets, their purple dresses and their pearls, they too will stay at home. ~ Plutarch, Advice to the Bride and Groom, 1st Century AD.

I don’t agree with that, seeing as all it takes to send me out for a jaunt around the block is a decent pair of sneakers. No gilding, bracelets, or anklets required, but I do appreciate the spirit of the quote.

Remember, if thou marry for beauty, thou bindest thyself all thy life for that which perchance will neither last nor please thee one year; and when thou hast it, it will be to thee of no price at all. ~ Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618)

The last hint for husbands underscored to me what I have always known to be true; namely that there is nothing new under the sun:

When our Mistriss commands us to do anything, nothing should hinder us from giving a blinde obedience. ~ The Art of Making Love, 1676

Section IV: Hints for Wives

Don’t sit up until he comes home from the club; better be in bed and pretend to be asleep. If you must be awake, seem to be glad he came home early. He will probably think you an idiot; but that’s inevitable anyway. ~ The Isle of Man Times, 1895.

That made me grateful for a man who, most of the time anyway, thinks far more highly of me than is warranted. This next one is interesting:

If our husbands are not what we wish- and very few are in every respect- we should try to help them become so…We are apt to expect too much of manhood even, and hence, instead of a pleasant surprise, experience a sad disappointment. ~ Wedlock, 1874

That’s a bit of a headscratcher, but I really liked this next one, which is needed even more in this era:

Don’t expect life to be all sunshine. Besides, if there are no clouds, you will lose the opportunity of showing your husband what a good chum you can be. ~ Don’ts for Husbands and Wives, 1913.

That this next one was offered towards brides is telling, although it is clearly a unisex admonition:

Don’t imagine that the perfect lover, whether male or female, will come along ready made. If they do, mistrust them, since this shows a certain amount of previous experience. ~How to be A Good Lover, 1936

Last, but certainly not least:

Be not arrogant and answer not back your husband that shall be, nor his words, nor contradict what he saith, above all before other people. Le Menagier de Paris, 1393.

Some husbands actually desire to hear their wife’s perspective, especially when it differs from his. However, I would never contradict mine in front of others unless it was a matter of imminent life and death.

Section V: The Marital Bed

I’ll only offer two from this section. The way some of these chauvinists view sex, I’ll tell you…

A man must hug, and dandle, and kittle, and play a hundred little tricks with his bed-fellow when he is disposed to make that use of her that nature designed her for. ~ The Praise of Folly, 1509.

I’ll wind up the marital bed quotes with this one from the more modern era:

Legend speaks of the face that launched a thousand ships: maybe the one you select wouldn’t even launch a canoe, but don’t let that bother you.~ Looking Toward Marriage, 1944.

I enjoyed this little book. It’s funny, and I’m always up for a good laugh. It’s also interesting to read the perspectives of people who lived outside of the craziness of the postmodern world.

It does make one wonder though: Since there is so much literature out there -besides the Bible even- with practical marital advice from the wisdom of the ages- why are more being printed every day?

4 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars

 

 

In Other’s Words: In Memory of Sir Roger Scruton

Capture4

I learned on Sunday morning that Sir Roger Scruton, the intelligent and insightful conservative British philosopher, passed away at the age of 75. After reading the headline, it occurred to me to post a few thoughts outlining some of the ways his writing and commentary made me think.  As it happens, a writer more articulate than I ever hope to be, beat me to the punch (a luxury of writing for a living I suppose), so I decided to simply share a bit of what he wrote with which I heartily agree.

Before I offer the thoughts of another, I’ll note that Scruton’s observations on the intersection of the decline of architectural beauty and death of community are what first spring to mind when I see his name, whatever else a particular article he wrote happens to be about.

His discourse of beauty on a macro scale was also worth examining, but he was most convincing, at least to me, on the subject of the ugly architecture which has become the template for our postmodern work and living spaces. That, however, is only a small part of how Scruton critiqued postmodern culture and thought. Joshua Gibbs offers his take on the legacy of his “hero”, Sir Roger Scruton:

I only discovered Roger Scruton five years ago, which means I’ve barely scratched the surface of his work; however, in these five years, no living intellectual explained beauty and tradition with greater lucidity than Scruton. My thesis that all human artifacts can be divided between common, uncommon, and mediocre is borrowed from a passage on the importance of neatly setting the dinner table in Scruton’s Beauty: A Very Short Introduction (2011). Anything reasonable I’ve ever said about tradition (and especially about the Canon) is downstream from Scruton’s The Meaning of Conservatism (1980). Scruton was by no means an original thinker, though I mean this as the highest praise. He was a hand pointing at the sky. Without him, the sky would nonetheless exist, but I would not know where to look. Roger Scruton explained important things simply. Why do people graffiti ugly buildings but not beautiful ones? Why have old churches lasted? Why do exciting things not last? Why is it impossible to create a new tradition from scratch, try as we may? Scruton not only anticipated the questions of a restless mind, he answered them. My students quote Scruton every day when performing their catechism: “The world of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating; the work of creation slow, laborious and dull.” Every time I say these words, they offer a fresh justification for what I do.

I completely agree. This is an image of Scruton’s home library, the room of my dreams:

That tells you almost everything you need to know, doesn’t it? At the very least, it should dispel any confusion about why I’ve taken the time to remember Sir Roger Scruton in this space.

Rest in Peace, Professor Scruton.

 

 

 

Friday Faves: Chucktown, SC

sunset kiawah

The view we enjoyed during our stay.

We recently had occasion to spend a great week exploring the charming and historic Southern city of Charleston, South Carolina. It’s a city with subtropical weather (not unlike Southern Florida), surrounded by water, with scenic views in every direction. For my Friday Faves, I thought a brief recap of my favorite stops would be a fun thing to do.

  • Kiawah Island: The combination of the weather (after the first two days of rain), views, and general beauty of the place made it a place I’d love to stay again soon.
  • The City Market: The array of vendors selling everything from local specialty foods to the work of local artists was a feast for the senses. I really enjoyed touring and shopping there
  • Low Country Cuisine: You can’t really go to a food region like this one and not enjoy the local seafood, especially a plate of shrimp and grits.
  • The Sound of Charleston: This musical history of the city featuring beautifully performed music from plantation fields, confederate battlegrounds, and Gershwin’s South Carolina inspired opera Porgy and Bess, which contains the well-known song, Summertime.
  • The unquestioned highlight of our short excursion northward was getting to meet a friend I first began communication online with 8-10 years ago. She is every bit as delightful in person and I look forward to getting together again with her much sooner than a decade from now!

Next week, I’m thinking of listing a few of my guilty pleasures. We’ll see…

Y’all have a great weekend!

Word Nerd Wednesday: Contronyms

Dust-the-table.

When a word means one thing, but also means its opposite, what you have is a contronym.

Contronym: a word having two meanings that contradict one another.

Contronyms aren’t the same as oxymorons, however, in which two contradictory terms are combined either mistakenly or for effect. The meaning of a contronym is understood by its use in context. Here are a few contronyms.

~Bolt can mean either to secure something or to flee something. For example:

She bolted the door. Or…She bolted out of there.

~Left can mean that something or someone remains or that someone or something left. For example:

John left the party. Or…As the party ended, John was the only one left.

~Overlook might mean to supervise something, but then again it might mean to neglect something. For example:

She overlooked the mistake the clerk made. Or…Karen carefully overlooked the transaction so no mistake was made.

~To sanction something means to approve of it, but it also means to punish or boycott something. For example:

Sam’s mother sanctioned his use of the car on Friday night. Or…Sam’s mother imposed sanctions upon him, including refusing him the use of the car on Friday night.

~To strike something means to hit it, or it might mean a swing and a miss. For example:

Bob bowled a perfect game on Saturday, striking every pin on the first attempt. However, he managed to strike out three times at his company softball game on Sunday.

Those are just a few examples of contronyms. Feel free to add comments with any more contronyms you can think of.

Aren’t words wonderful?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Faves: Looking Backwards and Forwards

Happy New Year, y’all!

Since this is the first Friday of 2020, I decided to do a quick review of what was and preview of what I hope to see as the calendar has flipped. I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, but swimming in the sea of new beginnings such as we all are, it’s impossible not to get splashed. Once splashed, it’s impossible to ignore the drops of water on my skirt, and so my mind was drawn into thoughts of things that have gone, and things to come. First up, a look back:

I reviewed 30 books on the blog this year. However, I also read several books that I didn’t review for various reasons. Some of those are:

  • Marriage for Moderns: I’m still sifting through this old textbook from the 1940s written by Dr. Henry Bowman. It’s not readily available, which is one of the reasons I’m not planning to review it. A quick perusal of the two reviews it garnered on Amazon offers a snapshot of how Bowman’s ideas play in 2020. I don’t find it nearly as objectionable as those reviewers. Perhaps I’ll review it this year, but probably not.
  • The Hormone Reset Diet by Dr. Sarah Gottfried: I’m not getting any younger, and I don’t have any qualms about acknowledging it.  I refuse to jump on the cultural bandwagon which asserts that continuing to live is somehow offensive or something to apologize for. The reason I didn’t review the book is that it’s niche-y, and I don’t suppose everyone is interested in the tweaks I have to make along the way to maintain optimal health, which I am grateful to enjoy, but it costs.
  • Julius Caesar: I read this in conjunction with some exquisite and delightful literary homeschool mothers over the summer. It was fun, but it’s a story everyone knows and most people have read, only if in high school, so I didn’t bother to review it.
  • The Father Brown Mysteries, by G.K. Chesterton. I love these stories, and I may pick a few to highlight some time during the first quarter of 2020, but I read them sporadically for my personal enjoyment in 2019, and never got around to offering reviews.

There are times when I want to read unimpeded, and writing reviews I’ll be satisfied with requires a level of distraction that necessarily precludes my ability to do that. Which is why I decide not to review certain books.

Here are my favorite books reviewed here at Reading in Between the Life, by category:

  • Fiction: A Girl of the Liberlost. This is a beautiful, poignant story with a satisfying conclusion. It’s a middle-grade book but appeals to all ages.
  • Nonfiction: There’s a three-way tie for this one. That sounds like a lot until you consider that most of the books I read and review here are nonfiction. My three favorite nonfiction books of the year are Beauty Destroys the Beast, The Black Girl’s Guide to Being Blissfully Feminine, and Digital Minimalism. They each encouraged me in different but profound ways. Amy Fleming touches on things that Christian women need to think about, Candace Adewole taps into truths only black women can fully appreciate, and Cal Newport is a postmodern prophet crying out in the digital wilderness.
  • Christian: How to be Unlucky, by Joshua Gibbs. In reality, Beauty Destroys the Beast is also a Christian book so it could go here as well. Unlucky is more metaphysical, which is what I was originally thinking of as I considered this category.

Looking ahead to 2020, and addressing that New Year’s splash I mentioned at the beginning of the post, there are a few endeavors I’m looking forward to dipping my toe into. There are also other things I began last year but would like to dive deeper into as the year unfolds.

  • I need to write more, and by more, I mean more than just here and in my prayer journal. I often feel as if my vision of being published is slipping away. This could mean that my dream is not on the path God has for me, but it also could mean that I haven’t applied myself to the task as much as I should.
  • Improve my copyediting skills and build a resume. I went back to school. I put in the work. I got the piece of paper. The only thing left is to take advantage of it, which I didn’t work at in 2019.
  • Learn to sew the perfect skirt. I’m not a seamstress, and I don’t have any real desire to be one, but I love a great skirt, at just the right length, with usable pockets, in colors that flatter my caramel skin tone. Every now and again I run across one and if the price is right, I grab it. But as a 5’9″ pronounced hourglass, it’s in my interest, if I can manage it, to learn to make my own. So I’m going for it.
  • Lose weight. Spiritual weight, that is. I’m always working on strengthening my physical temple, but this year my focus is on Hebrews 12:1b let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…

As far as reading and what you can expect around here? More great (and sometimes not so great) books, and more reviews so you’ll know which is which. We’ll have more discussions about education, language, and all of it interspersed with occasional snippets from my crazy, busy, blissfully mundane life.

Happy 2020!