Why I’ll Watch Ender’s Game Three Times this Weekend

This is–too a large degree–off topic of what I usually like to comment on this blog. (Not that I’ve been writing much lately anyway.)

But I feel compelled to share with anyone willing to read the deep rooted reasons I’ll spend nearly forty dollars this weekend to see the film adaption of Ender’s Game in theaters.

I love the book. It was a life changer for me. Ender’s story fascinated me as an eleven year old; even though I didn’t understand the nuances of the story until later in my life, I’ve realized in hindsight that even as young as I was I understood issues of morality, mortality, and isolation embedded in the story. Card’s science-fiction classic was my catalyst for my modern day love of books and storytelling. It is partially to blame for me becoming an educator. Although it is unfortunate that Card’s personal life and outspoken political and religious beliefs have come to the forefront in recent years, they do not change my love of the characters he created. As misguided as some of his personal beliefs may be, Card still managed to weave a tale that questions everything from war to the ethics of psychological study and childhood trauma. For that at least, I’m thankful. I do not expect the movie to live up to my years imagining Ender’s world and experiences;  I am now old enough to understand that it would be foolish to think that it should. So when I see Ender’s Game for the first time tonight, I will enter the theater with the anticipation of a young boy who loves great adventures and storytelling–not as a rigid, curmudgeoned fanboy whose every fancy must be satisfied. I hope to fall in love with the story all over again just in a different way. I will be watching this movie at least once for the child in me.

I’m lucky enough to know one of the actors in the movie personally. He has a small role; a role that was actually changed from the book, I think, to avoid the negative connotations associated with the character’s name. He is now a freshmen at the University of Georgia, but I’ve been lucky enough to be part of his life partially as a mentor since he was a freshman in high school. He’s been acting in small roles in lower budget movies most of his youth, so when he told me excitedly one day that he had landed a role with a movie starring Harrison Ford, I immediately thought to ask him if he landed a role in Ender’s Game. You see I follow movie news closely, and I already knew that Harrison Ford had accepted a role in the movie and even that they would be filming in Louisiana. Putting two and two together, it was easy to see that he was about to be part of something very special. What I still find humorous to this day about our dialog about him being selected for a part is that he was surprised I had heard of it; as it turned out, my young friend hadn’t ever read the novel himself. As you can imagine, the conversation that ensued was entertaining and a tad intense as I relayed my passion for the story, its impact on me, and how he desperately needed to read the book for himself as soon as possible. Needless to say he picked up a copy fairly quickly. I recall fondly the many talks we had about the book and then later about his time in production. I even came quite close to joining him on set for a week, but alas it wasn’t to be. If I’m being honest, it has been exciting having some inside information and living out the film making process vicariously through him. I will be watching this movie at least twice for my love and support of my young friend. (If you’re reading this buddy, I’m proud of you!)

Finally, I will see this movie at least three times this weekend for the connections this story has forged with me and countless number of my friends and former students. A feeling of utter joy resides in my body today knowing that this weekend so many of these wonderful people in my life will re-experience Ender’s story with me.

Even with these three views, I will see the movie at least one more time after this weekend with my dad–the man who handed me the book when I was eleven. We’ve both been waiting a small lifetime to see Ender’s story be told in this way, and my experience will not be complete until I’m sitting next to the man who handed me the story that changed my life.

So say what you will about the author; I make no excuses for him, but nothing short of the apocalypse will keep me from experiencing Ender’s world come to life right in front of me with people I love.

This weekend remember, “The enemy’s gate is down”

Embracing the Countercanonical

**This has been a long time coming. I haven’t been posting much with so many other of life’s trails and tribulations to balance, but hopefully you can find this very late piece enjoyable.**

My doctoral classes this semester have provided some insightful reading and debate on the teaching of literature at all levels of education. In particular my class that focuses on research in the field of literature has produced some lively commentary and debates for me and my cohort. One of the more intriguing arguments I’ve found is about the canon. The arguments range from a feminist approach to political agendas to staunch positions of adhering to the classics versus abandoning them all together. Given, the theories often posit the extreme and ask readers to join their end of the spectrum or dare to live precariously on the other end. The truth in these theories–like most stubborn points of view–is somewhere in the middle. But there is little fun in reasoning with the middle.

A regular assertion in the readings centers around the need for the canon to amend itself in order to welcome new works from a more diverse authorship as well as questioning what criteria even makes up the requirements for admission into the vaulted canon of literature in schools. Through these various assertions and questions, a word that I was not previously familiar with continued to repeat itself in these scholars’ diction–“counterconan,” or as an adjective “countercononical.”

The countercanon is made up of the misfits, right? The works of beleaguered ‘others’ whom have not found a way to politically or socially find a home in the canon. I don’t know if I feel comfortable defining them that way, but I found myself having a strong attraction to this new vernacular that elicited me to think alternatively about literature and our schooled canon. At first I found value in the thought of pumping my fist in unison with these scholars and agreeing that canon must amend itself; it must deconstruct itself; it must bend to the will of the alternative voices. But then I thought, “nah.”

Truth is I think there is tremendous value in works not being in the canon. Leave the canon to the old-dead-white guys (and gals as well as a handful of African Americans and Asian Americans), and allow everything else to exist in its own, alternative realm of awesome. (I know, awesome isn’t a very scholarly description, but I’m not writing a doctoral paper here.)

Countercanonical texts is our escape from the canon; it gives us a rebellion, an alternative to the a world of canonized works that have arisen and wedged themselves into our classrooms through mysterious (and possibly questionable) criteria. I like that. Young adult literature (YAL) comes to mind immediately; whereas we have struggled to see students embrace stories of the classic canon, they will flock like a gaggle of geese to pick up the next book in a beloved series. Students devour these works. Maybe most importantly, YAL is dominated by female authors, which is quite opposite the canon we all know. Sure, it may be that way because male authors find the task of writing YAL beneath them, but who cares?! YAL is countercanonical in the best sense possible; it isn’t all white; it isn’t all male; it isn’t all dead; and it can’t yet be canonized! It is an alternative. Again, I like that.

Maybe we should stop debating the practice of canonizing literature and who’s in versus who’s out. Maybe we should be really elated that there are alternatives and points of view and stories that don’t fit the proverbial mold. Maybe–just maybe.

A War of Gifts

Orson Scott Card has been one of my favorite authors since I was about twelve years old. It is his book Ender’s Game that helped me fall in love with reading as a young teenager, and I have followed his writing for the last fifteen years. I’ve paid the closest attention to his Ender books, though. They are afterall, the catalyst for my current and continued love of reading. What I’ve always loved most about Card’s books is that although labeled as science fiction, they are really deep character stories that take you through the psychology of growing up, war, and the dynamics of human nature. I’ve appreciated this even more as I’ve grown older. My love for Ender’s universe has been so strong that I read the original book at least once every other year, and recently I have read through the graphic novels developed by Marvel; I’m currently listening to the original book on CD now on my long drives to school and back home. (Big thanks to my Dad for sharing the CD’s with me.) In many ways, Card, with the help of my Dad first handing me the book, has altered the course of my life forever. I have pondered before if I would be a teacher or a writer if not for reading Ender’s Game.

This past week while traveling, I re-encountered the Ender universe by reading a short novella that Card wrote not long ago aptly named The War of Gifts. The short book (only about ninety pages) sucked me right back into the extraordinary world and psychology that Card has built over the last three decades. Written in third person but from different character’s views the story propels the reader back into the days of battle school, but this time the focus is on religious celebrations and holiday practices which are strictly forbidden in battle school. Card exquisitely develops the psychology behind both those who hold close to their culture and those who have been unknowingly oppressed by religion all while reintroducing familiar characters as well as Ender Wiggin himself again. As a fan of the series, I was probably easy to please, but I genuinely feel this is a great, short read for anyone. The writing is superb and the themes leave you thinking well after you finish drinking in the final word.

If you’re a fan of Card’s, or even if you’ve never heard of him before now, I highly recommend checking this novella out in the near future.

PS – If you are an avid Card reader, he just released his newest book as part of the Ender’s Shadow series and will release a prequel about the first formic wars in July. Also, the Ender’s Game movie is slated to be in theaters in March 2013.

Percy Jackson Returns!

The YAL nerd in me has to share briefly how excited I am to see Percy Jackson come alive again on the page with the release of Rick Riordan’s new book, The Son of Neptune, which is the second book in the new Hero’s of Olympus series. I just started the book and hope to finish it very soon. If you’re a fan of the original series, Greek and Roman mythology, adventure, and just good story telling, then pick up these new books. Good times and happy reading!

Book 2 of the Hero's of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

Spring Break Reading List

One part of Spring Break that I absolutely love is it is my opportunity to catch up on some much needed pleasure reading.

Here is my reading list this week:

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admittedly, I’m not a very fast reader. (I don’t mind though because it helps me relate to my students’ struggles.) But, I will certainly look forward to devouring at least these four. Happy Reading!