Company, Canons, and Correspondence

Three things.

First, long-time Frederick, Maryland friends Carl and Linda did arrive on Tuesday, with friends from Anguilla, and we had the most wonderful day, eating together in Irene (our new gathering room), climbing Stone Mountain together, and wolfing down root beer floats afterwards. Our Anguillian friends had never had a root beer float! One of them (I won't say who, but it was not the four-year-old) had TWO! heehee. Root beer floats have that effect on folks. Remember, Blue Bell Ice Cream (Breyers will do) and Barq's root beer, as Ruby Lavender tells us. Accept no substitutes.

We are ridiculous. We climbed Stone Mountain in 96-degree heat. Why? Because it's there! And... hey, we don't look too worse for wear, do we? The root beer floats really helped. They are medicinal.

Thank you so much for taking the time to come visit us, friends. What a wonderful day. We'll never forget it.

Second thing: Canons. Tomorrow I'll leave you for the weekend thinking about your own personal reading/writing canon, so I thought I'd try to define what, for our purposes, "canon" will mean. Your thoughts are welcome.

For many years I have read, on listservs and in books, have heard folks talk at conferences and in classrooms, about canons. What books are necessities to have read for... whatever purpose. There's the Western canon and the Biblical canon and many, many more, and they are all subjective... to a point. Can everyone agree, for instance, that one should have read all of the Harvard Classics to be a well-read, well-rounded person in the world? Does it matter? Who decided on this list? Might it ever change? Etc.

And, if one wants to write for children, what books should one read? Is there a children's books canon? A YA canon? Some say yes, some say no, and isn't it always fluctuating? There is endless debate about a canon of children's literature. Which list is the best? Which books are must-reads? And who are the authorities that tell us so?

I think you are your own best authority. We can (and I always have) cull lists from pillar to post, we can ask for recommendations, we can read to our heart's content, and we can learn from everything we read. But what is most important to you may not be most important to me. And vice versa.

There's a difference between reading for enlightenment, for learning, for education, and reading something that profoundly informs or changes your life. THIS is the canon I'm after now, after 50 years of being a reader in the world.

And you don't have to wait 50 years to begin assembling a personal canon. You can begin now. What books go on your list of books that have defined your life in some way? You would not be the same person if you had not read these books... and each book for a different reason.

Some of my canon includes children's books. Some are adult books. Some are novels, some are non-fiction, some are spiritual, some are how-to, some are the books that appeared at the right time in my life and that changed the very way I thought or looked at the world, or taught, or wrote, or parented.

I'm going to try to begin roughly at the beginning, but these books won't be in chronological order. I'll choose one or two for each "personal canon" post this summer. I'll tell you why they are important to me. That "why" is a story.

And -- this is important: As much as I want to share these books with you, I want you to share your choices with me. This request ties into number three on my list today, correspondence, so I'll just segue into correspondence now.

This listing and storytelling won't be the same without some dialogue back and forth. If you're keeping a blog, will you link to mine and announce this personal canon challenge? Or will you send this blog in an email to friends who might be interested, and let's get a dialogue going. This is meant to be fun, and informative, and enlightening for you (and me! us!), as you uncover your own canon -- one book at a time.

Let's see what kinds of personal canons we can come up with in August -- one person's memory will spark another's, and we'll learn a lot about one another and about ourselves, too. I won't always have a personal canon post in August, but I'll sprinkle them in, and I will so look forward to the conversation.

In the Free Online Dictionary, I find:

canon: noun:
-- a basis for judgement; a standard, a criterion
-- a group of literary works that are generally accepted as representing a field: "the durable canon of American short fiction"

You are the field -- your entire life. You get to choose what is acceptable for your canon.

In the Miriam-Webster Dictionary, I find:
-- a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works; canon of great literature.

You sanction, and you get to decide how these works relate. For our purposes, then, let's make a personal reading/writing canon read this way:

The personally sanctioned group of literary works that form the standard and criterion for [your name here]'s life.

Anybody want to tweak this? Feel free. Let's make it as clear and concise as possible.

And lastly, correspondence: My laptop was in the shop for five weeks, and along with it lots of email. I'm back in business now, and trying to catch up. Most of y'all are shy like me and correspond through email instead of the blog. I love hearing from you in whatever form it takes, although I'm more reliable sometimes through the blog these days than I am in regular email.

Thanks for coming along for the adventure! Be thinking about your personal reading/writing canon. I know just where to begin tomorrow. I've got book number one right here beside me.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Howdy. Moderating comments to prevent spam. I'm sure you're not that. Thanks for your thoughts! Write on, warrior on. Make art.