Monday, January 6, 2014

For Every Genre There is a Season

Today one of my classes read "January 1999: Rocket Summer," the opening chapter of The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. I decided months ago that today would be the perfect day to read it because with January, at least in the world of teenagers and school, comes the inevitable anti-climactic, post-Christmas slump of nothing exciting to look forward to.

Every season has its appeal, of course, but I, like the majority of my students, eagerly await the spring and summer months after Christmas break ends. I love the snow, and I don't mind the cold; I love wearing blue jeans, eating s'mores, sitting in front of an open fire, and sledding down the hill beside my parents' house (yes, even still). But there is something truly magical about simultaneously anticipating the arrival of the next season--the months when sub-zero temperatures fade away, the snow melts into rain, and the formerly hibernating plants bring forth new fruit and new life once again.
Exhibit A: Enjoying the fire
(and preventing my young nephew from jumping into it)

Exhibit B: About to enjoy fresh produce, some of it home grown
"Rocket Summer," with it's whiff of warm summer breezes, became even more apropos today considering the negative-degree weather we are expecting in our area tonight. If you'd like a touch of mid-winter warmth for yourself, you can read how the state of Ohio rapidly thawed out here.

Following their reading assignment, students were challenged to write their own science-fiction short story, an exercise which many of them seemed unsure about. Having predicted their uncertainty, I did my best to explain the benefits behind the challenge (e.g. "Science fiction is important as a genre because . . .").

After listing the many assets of the science fiction genre, I started to think to myself about the ways in which other genres are beneficial for writers and readers. One genre that is profitable, that might also make you barf once I mention it, is romance.* (see note below) Now, before I lose you completely, I will swiftly cut to the quick. The reason that I like some of the works by authors like Jane Austen is because they deal with issues of the heart. And, as Scripture says,
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. (Prov. 4:23)
Your heart needs to be dealt with in the right way. It is deceitful (cf. Jer. 17:9). It is irrational. One of the greatest literary examples of this irrationality is displayed in the character of Marianne Dashwood from Austen's Sense and Sensibility. (If you haven't read the book, read it. If you don't have the time, it was brilliantly translated into film in the Emma Thompson version pictured below.)

The "girly-est" box of Christmas gifts I have ever received. It may not be your taste, but you have to admit it is a lovely-looking ensemble.
At any rate, please trust me when I tell you this: It is far less painful to learn through observing examples, such as those found within the pages of novels, than to learn through experiencing personal heartbreak.

Other genres deal more directly with other matters, but I wanted to point out that even a genre as simple (and sometimes sappy and/or vomit-inducing) as romance does have its place. Especially as we reflect upon our own hearts and lives.

P.S. To my non-girly readers--I soon shall share about my mountain adventures from over Christmas break. Adventures that the Dashwood sisters would have likely foregone.
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*N.B. By "romance" I am not in any way referring to books that indulge women's fantasies. Rather, I mean books that challenge a woman's character as it relates to the opposite sex.