Yet Another Interpretation of Andrea Barrett from an English 1A Student

Self can’t help it, she’s on a roll this morning, with grading of papers. This afternoon the students will abandon Andrea Barrett and move on to Yi-Fu Tuan and likely lose themselves in the thicket of his nature vs. reality conundrums, students will be sure to love that (##@@!!). But, in the meantime, here’s the second good paper on Andrea Barrett’s process that self pulled out of the pile, and she’s only looked at SIX so far, not bad! Dare self hope the class as a whole has actually absorbed something from her “seat-of-the-pants” style of teaching???

This is John S’s take on Andrea Barrett’s process:

In Andrea Barrett’s piece, “Why We Go”, there is a very distinctive description of how she crafts her work. Under the guise of describing her adventures floating downriver in a kayak, she uses kayaking as a metaphor for her writing. Her experience of drafting is portrayed in her description of how she learned to roll in her kayak.

In her interview, “The Hidden Map of the Story,” she describes drafting as being similar to the process of building a house: “You don’t know how to build a house. The walls go up, the walls go down, the walls go up again somehow, a house gets built.” Both of these descriptions — the kayaking and the house-building– are really depictions of her writing process.

Another commonly discussed theme is the process of researching. “Why We Go” explains this process in the guise of having a map, which helps the adventurer explore what has already been explored. Fusing the two ideas, Barrett shows how having a map to guide the kayaker downstream, and researching your ideas before you write, are really one and the same process.

Barrett is more detailed about her writing process in the interview. In drafting her stories, she explains that she puts an excess of historical information into her manuscript, only to sacrifice much, if not all, of this material later. This approach ensures that what is essential is not lost. This description of her drafting process sets the interview apart from the essay.

Yes, yes, yeeees!!!

Princess of Los Altos, do your worst!

An Essay on Andrea Barrett by an English 1A Student

In one hour, I explained Andrea Barrett‘s essay “Why We Go” to my English 1A class at xxxxx community college. Then I gave them a timed in-class writing exercise: Explain her process to me. You have 30 minutes.

I have been doing this for four weeks now, so the students pretty much know the drill and there were only a few complaints.

This evening I pulled a big stack of papers out of my satchel and sat down to begin grading them (While watching The Closer. First time to catch an episode in its entirety, Kyra Sedgwick absolutely terrific, has very expressive mouth.).

Here is Sean M’s essay. His teachers never told him he could write. But this boy really, really CAN:

When describing her first experiences with “rolling”, a paddle method employed in kayaking, Barrett states that the act of repetition is crucial for any enjoyment or enlightenment to take place. Similarly, when writing, Barrett engages in vast amounts of research and writes draft after draft until she is satisfied.

An elaborate process of gathering facts, mixing them with her imagination, and then laying them out to experience is evident both in Barrett’s writing as well as her adventures. She describes both these experiences, however, as conflicting with her desires and goals.

In “Why We Go”, Barrett describes how she almost died on one of her kayaking trips. Why go through such a difficult process of learning when the experience itself can kill you so easily? Why go through so much difficult, grueling research and drafting, just to create a story? The repetition, along with other elements involved in the process, makes the experience worthwhile. Most of the satisfaction we achieve from our experiences comes from the process, comes from the ability to do it again and again. Often something will happen that disorients and disrupts the process and thus possibly ruins the experience. Choosing what to take from these occurrences and figuring out how they made you feel, however, completes the experience.

The Third Most Gorgeous Day etc. etc.

Watching the Food Network, which is my most favorite thing to do when I want to avoid grading papers. Right now, show is The Barefoot Contessa. Just before this, the De Laurentiis girl was on. Feel strange fondness for this petite woman who I have seen in earlier incarnations looking lost in white chef’s togs at French culinary school. The other day, browsing on the web, read some mean remarks about her rather too prominent jaw and the fact that her necklines seem to be going lower and lower. But today she was primly covered up, don’t know what that blogger was talking about.

These are the activities I engaged in today:

    Went to San Carlos Public Library to borrow book on Thomas Edison and his support of the electric chair (book was not available in RWC library)
    Watched rented video of The Illusionist, as am on a real Edward Norton kick here. Wondering whether to watch Independent Spirit Awards, as heard he is up for a Best Actor Award for The Painted Veil (but tired of award shows in general; the last one, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, were a crashing bore, left after the Julie Andrews Lifetime Achievement thing, though I have nothing but admiration for this actress).

(Of course, phone, which has been silent all day, has in the last half hour not stopped ringing; also, very persistent knocker surfaced mid-afternoon, kept up an insistent tattoo on the door, annoyed me with familiarity of insistent knocking so did not open up, even though it may have been a neighbor with important news such as: Gracie escaped from the side yard — but no, I don’t think so, as she was right beside me howling)

    Went to Whole Foods again; this time purchased two avocados ($1.50 each, but certifiably organic), freshly grated Parmesan cheese ($4.39), certified organic wheat English muffins ($2.99), and three pears ($1.99 a lb.) Could not manage to cough up $3.99 for two Chinese eggplants, even though they had the most beautiful lavender color. Took me an hour to purchase said items, as I don’t know where anything is in that store, even though I hang out there almost every other day.
    Came home, took call from annoyingly chirpy receptionist of periodontist, wanted to put off seeing them until March but was told have to come in soon.
    Received e-mail from first cousin in New York who announces he is getting re-married in June. In my reply, nearly addressed him as “Mike”– good thing double-checked his e-mail and saw he had signed off as “Miguel.” Girl is, according to aunts, ever-so-smart (and rich, they assert with great pride) and furthermore is “of French blood”(??@@!!) Since information was delivered in mass e-mail, checked to see in what order my name appeared and saw I was fourth from the end, not bad. Definitely will send wedding present.

ODU Echoes

Almost the last thing I did before leaving last year’s ODU Literary Festival, Colonial Encounters, was beg a story off a young ODU teacher named Princess Perry.

The story she gave me was “Color Struck.” I read it in the fall, in the middle of the busiest semester (thus far) of my life. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

Below is an excerpt.

Princess Perry teaches English at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. She was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama. Her story “James and Samuel” is forthcoming in Harrington Gay Men’s Literary Journal.

From a short story, “Color Struck”:

The doors of their tiny, tidy house stood open. Curtains lofted on the breeze. The scrubbed floor dried. A foot path that led from the front of the house to the back was edged in scarlet four o’clocks. In the backyard, an iron pot, blackened by years of use cooled in warm ashes set far from the garden of pole beans, collard and mustard greens. Boys of five and seven, as wild as any deer in the woods, chased around the yard. A toddling girl stumbled as she tried to keep up. They were good-looking children with fast, dirty-gold curls, fat cheeks and sturdy limbs. Not one of them was the same shade. Not one of them as pale as the mother or dark as the father. The parents were made over as children. Contented. Simple brown.

Over by the clothesline, Kate and Soot basked in mundane happiness. The breeze loosened Kate’s hair, blew it into her eyes as she stretched to pin a skirt. Soot shifted the basket, freed one hand, and pushed the locks behind her ear. Above them, the sky was blue and nothing less, wiped clean as the kitchen table, cloudless, fit for a plain love: Kate in a house dress with ripped pockets, pinning up socks and diapers; Soot barefoot, his shirt unbuttoned, romancing her by carrying the basket.

Alveeta halted in front of the house of Soot and Kate to throw out that cherry soda and was struck with tunnel vision. She did not see the uncertain start, the years of effort, the deliberately made life: open house, prancing children, a garden painstakingly sewn.

Alveeta saw only Soot’s black hand gently brush Kate’s white face.”

If you liked this passage and want to read more, you can contact Princess at:

NYTBR Jan. 21, 2007

Books I Am Interested in Reading (After Perusing the Jan. 21, 2007 Issue of the New York Times Book Review):

(1) After reading Lee Siegel’s review of Norman Mailer’s The Castle in the Forest:

Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night

(2) After reading Lorraine Adams‘s review of Elif Shafak‘s novel, The Bastard of Istanbul:

Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul

(3) After reading Liesl Schillinger’s review of Roddy Doyle‘s new novel, Paula Spencer:

Allison Pearson’s best-selling novel, I Don’t Know How She Does It

(4) After reading Ada Calhoun’s review of Allen Rucker‘s memoir, The Best Seat in the House: How I Woke Up One Tuesday and Was Paralyzed for Life:

Allen Rucker’s memoir, The Best Seat in the House: How I Woke Up One Tuesday and Was Paralyzed for Life

(5) After reading Henry Alford‘s review of They Call Me Naughty Lola: Personal Ads from the London Review of Books:

They Call Me Naughty Lola: Personal Ads from the London Review of Books

(6) After reading Joe Queenan‘s hilarious end-paper essay, “Astonish Me”, the following “astonishing” books:

Alice McDermott’s new novel, After This
Alice Munro’s new story collection, The View From Castle Rock
J. M. Coetzee’s Slow Man
Orhan Pamuk’s The New Life
James Ellroy’s My Dark Places
Ayelet Waldman’s Love and Other Impossible Pursuits
Abigail Thomas’s A Three Dog Life

Journal of Feminist Studies Calling for Submissions

The Journal of Feminist Studies is announcing the following themed issues:

Call for Papers and Creative Work on Chicana Studies (Deadline: May 1)

Feminist Studies is planning several Special Issues over the next three to five years. The first will focus on Chicana Studies. As with all our issues, this will include articles from all disciplines, art work, poetry, fiction, memoir, interviews, and commentaries. If you are currently working in this field and are interested in submitting to us, please contact the Editorial Director, Claire Moses, to discuss your work with her.

Feminist Studies is committed to publishing an interdisciplinary body of feminist knowledge that sees intersections of gender with racial identity, sexual orientation, economic means, geographical location, and physical ability as the touchstone for our politics and our intellectual analysis. Whether work is drawn from the complex past or the shifting present, the pieces that appear in Feminist Studies address social and political issues that intimately and significantly affect women and men in the United States and around the world.

Authors should send a hard copy of their work, along with an electronic version to the Feminist Studies office. We will not process creative submissions until we receive both a hard copy and an electronic version, either by e-mail or on disk. Since creative work will not be returned, authors should retain a copy of their work. If other work is cited in the piece, please use our citation style.”

For the future, we are planning Special Issues on Transgender Studies and Popular Music Culture. We invite submissions that are not presently under consideration elsewhere.

Send to: Department of Women’s Studies, 0103 Taliaferro Hall, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742 – 7726



Oh loyal blog readers, I was all set to post when hubby tripped on line to Speedstream 3560, and nearly burned the cord over floor heater.


Quick as a wink, was able to retrieve cord before it melted into pilot flame. What quick instincts I do have when it comes to rescuing my ability to post!

Rome the show just ended. Last shot: extreme close-up of pot of poisoned savory stew being borne by Althea the serving woman to Atia @@##!! Stew liberally laced with blue stuff from a bottle by servant Duro, whose name I take it means HARD. (Name very appropriate since this boy in last episode was shown “making” it with men, women, you name it.) A few minutes earlier, said Duro was seen in house of bitch-goddess Servilia, demanding money and uttering Rome characters’ most overused line: “Kiss me” — ! Servilia at first regally contemptuous of this puppy, but eventually is forced to submit!

Can’t wait to see what happens next episode, as in preview of next week’s show saw a woman in brown tunic sprawled on floor and wondered if this was Atia. However, could also be Althea, who might have decided to take a surreptitious taste of poison-laden stew before taking it to her mistress.

Hubby missed first 15 minutes of episode because he was doing I-don’t-know-what on his laptop in bedroom. When he came out, he asked, “What did I miss?”

“Only one castration, one smoking of hemp from Macedonia, one sexual act (consensual) between pretty-boy servant Duro and Atia’s Chief of Household, and two (quite heinous) physical assaults (one of which was prefaced by man being held upside down over a privy).”

Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo in midst of terrific fight when hubby emerged. “Yes, I fucked Niobe!” Titus was heard to yell, before both pitched out of a window and landed among a crowd of people.

Cut to Atia’s house. A visitor appears, a new member of the cast, fresh-faced young boy.

“Hello! Who is THIS?” I exclaim.

Boy is entranced by sight of Octavian’s sister, who I learn is named OCTAVIA, playing a harp.

“He’ll be offed next,” hubby predicts. “Anyone who gets involved with HER (meaning Octavia) dies.”

If you recall, loyal blog reader, Octavia is a widow; something terrible happened to her husband during first season, seem to recall some passing reference to involvement of Atia!

Atia appears, and there follows this dialogue:

ATIA (to Octavia): Who is this?

OCTAVIA: Mother, this is Octavian’s friend, Marcus Agrippa.

Atia orders him to clear out. Then calls a servant.

ATIA (to servant): Tell Marc Antony that Marcus Agrippa is in the city.

OCTAVIA: Mother, no! Who knows what Marc Antony will do to him?

ATIA: Nothing very pleasant, I would think.

Quote of the Day — Jan. 28, 2007

From p. 52 of David Wise‘s engrossing Spy:

Long after, when he pleaded guilty to espionage in federal court, (Aldrich) Ames described that day: “I did something which is still not entirely explicable even to me: without preconditions, or any demand for payment, I volunteered to the KGB information identifying virtually all Soviet agents of the CIA and and other American and foreign services known to me. To my enduring surprise, the KGB replied that it had set aside for me two million dollars in gratitude for the information.” His decision to betray the CIA’s agents, Ames later said, “was like the leap into the dark.”

Plan for the Day: TV, TV, TV, TV

Hmmm, still haven’t figured out how to teach Women’s Lit class, started banging out handout after handout yesterday (before proceeding to Pasta Moon in Half Moon Bay, where got *slightly* tipsy on Italian merlot and fab 10-year-old port), but looking them over in cold of very early morning, think students are going to think I’m crazy.

We’re supposed to discuss Mary Shelley as a science fiction writer. Why’d I do that? Now can’t remember. Especially as I’ve already gotten e-mail from three students (out of a class of eight!) giving me various reasons for not showing up to class: one, a death in the family, am pretty sure will be the last I see of that one. The one student who seems actually engaged with material is, surprisingly, lone male.

Also, trying to figure out best way to shlep piles of books up four flights of stairs — students did not take kindly to seeing me drag myself in, panting, last week. Must go early this time, if possible half an hour before class, and then gather myself together. Will be quite a trick, since I’m coming straight from three-hour class at xxxxx community college, where am expecting more run-ins with Princess of Los Altos.

Oh well! Perhaps as a result of mad, hyper, lesson planning yesterday, neck is a veritable killer this morning. Very interesting reading, though: found out from Spy that those little gadgets in James Bond, the ones Q is endlessly passing over to a nonchalant 007, really do exist, as witness following description of camera in a cigarette lighter, handed over to Russian informer by CIA officer:

The CIA camera, known as a tropel, was tube-shaped, with the lens at the opposite end from the flint. The specially designed lens was not much bigger than a dime. Yuzhin smoked, so a cigarette lighter would not be expected to arouse suspicion. The device actually worked, if only briefly, as a lighter… The special film would allow . . . ninety pictures.

Let’s see, what else? We didn’t watch The Last King of Scotland yesterday. Instead, we rented The Illusionist and I treated myself to more delish views of Ed Norton’s amazingly high forehead. Love interest this time was Jessica Biel, who was excellent as she was not Scarlett Johansson.

This evening, preparing for major TV watching marathon:

    Stanford men’s basketball vs. UCLA on Fox at 5 (briefly debated trying to score tickets for this one, as game is being played in Maples, but hubby positive all tickets are sold out)
    Screen Actors Guild Awards on TNT at 8 (hoping for more EN sightings!)
    Rome on HBO at 9
    Battlestar Galactica on SciFi at 10

Bliss, bliss, bliss.

A Rainy Evening and SPY

So, it rained on the way back from fab dinner at Pasta Moon. Surrounded by ghostly fog on 280, was reminded of ghost of Balete Drive, thankfully hubby was driving.

Could hardly wait to zip through book I began this morning, Spy, which is about FBI traitor Robert Hanssen. First chapter was terrific — talks about how, in 1988, FBI finally woke up to the terrible realization that there was a possible mole in their midst (said mole had been active since 1975 but FBI, it seems, was in denial, can think of no other reason why it would take them thirteen years to get with the program), and how it assigned task of finding suspected mole to two men who worked out of a little cubicle in Langley, VA:

Within the Soviet unit, two experienced analysts, Bob King and Jim Milburn, were assigned to read the debriefings of Soviet defectors and reports of Soviet intelligence sources who had, over the years, been recruited as spies by the FBI. The two shared a cubicle in Room 4835 with their supervisor.

The supervisor, a tall, forty-four-year-old, somewhat dour man, was not a popular figure among his fellow special agents, although he was respected for his wizardry with computers. He had been born in Chicago, served for a while as a police officer in that city, and joined the FBI twelve years before, in 1976. Now he was responsible for preparing and overseeing the mole study.

For the supervisor, directing the analysis to help pinpoint a possible mole inside the FBI was a task of exquisite irony. For he knew who had turned over the names of (American informants) Valery Martynov and Sergei Motorin to the KGB. He knew there was in fact an active mole inside the FBI, passing the bureau’s most highly classified secrets to Moscow. He knew the spy was a trusted counterintelligence agent at headquarters. He knew, in fact, that the spy was a supervisory special agent inside the Soviet analytical unit. He knew all this but could tell no one. And for good reason.

Robert Hanssen was looking for himself.


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