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Schooling
by Heather McGowan

In her emotionally resonant and keenly observed first novel, McGowan employs a stream-of-consciousness prose style to describe the trials of a 13-year-old American girl when she is sent to an English boarding school following the death of her mother. From Maine, Catrine Evans travels to Monstead, the school north of London that her father, Teddy, born in Wales, attended during WWII. His memories of Monstead are halcyon, but the reality is different for Catrine, who is subjected to hazing by intensely class-conscious, cynical students who smoke, sniff glue and commit arson. Poised on the threshold between childhood and adolescence, Catrine's na‹vet‚ begins to harden into defensiveness when she realizes that even those who do begin to befriend her still consider her an outsider. Memories of her mother are painful, and she is also increasingly troubled by the knowledge that she and her friend Isabelle, back in Maine, may have caused a fatal accident. Unable to connect with her father, Catrine turns to her chemistry teacher, Mr. Gilbert, who seems to consider her special and encourages her interest in art. As this relationship progresses, Catrine faces the toughest lessons of all: she must learn to know her own mind and the limits and consequences of her emotional needs. McGowan works in an experimental mode. At once lush and harsh, and inventive in form, the novel reads like an extended sensory exercise. Readers who prefer a straightforward narrative may be bemused, but those willing to accept the challenge will be rewarded with a beautifully written coming-of-age tale. (June 19)Forecast: Blurbs from writers as varied as Rick Moody, Jonathan Lethem and Alice Hoffman should give some idea of McGowan's range. Though initially she may be consigned to the writer's-writer ghetto, some good reviews and handselling could get the novel out to a wider audience.


From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, November 15, 2002 01:19 AM Sherry's stuck behind a few cans of dark green paint, so she asked me to start off our discussion. This book made me glad I’m not thirteen any more. It can be a horrible, fence-straddling age where adulthood is itchy, uncomfortable and scary, and the familiarity of childhood is increasingly unreachable. As most of you have realized by now, the author uses a stream of consciousness style. Not the easiest of reading. But I’d encourage you to stick with it as it gets easier and easier. I found it was not the writing that changed, but me. As I let myself just sink into it, understand what I could understand, and go with the flow, the magic happened. It seemed obvious that this is the best, and perhaps only, way to approach this story—from inside the mind of troubled 13-year-old Catrine. The book built momemtum, I became more and more engrossed, and that last chapter was a wild, rewarding ride. Partly because of the writing style, there are things we’re unaware of, things we don’t understand. Just as there are things Catrine is unaware of or doesn’t understand. We’re in the dark about them because Catrine is in the dark. She hasn’t fully comprehended the bewildering sequence of events that has taken her mother away from her, ripped her away from Maine and landed her at Monstead. So here she is, at that awful age of thirteen, her dawning sexuality all mixed up with her other emotional needs. She’s been dealt a double whammy, no a triple whammy—her mother’s death, the motorcycle incident, and Monstead. And along comes Mr. Gilbert. What is he? Sympathizer? Father-figure? Friend? Something else? All of the above? And for that matter, what is Catrine? Child? Woman? Victim? Something else? Ruth
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (2 of 20), Read 39 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Friday, November 15, 2002 07:34 AM I'm wishing I had picked another time to do a major project, since this book needs more than snippets of time. I'm finding that the words need to be heard in my head, like a play. I'm usually not a fast reader and just about always hear the words in any book I read, but here, it's not just me. If you rush through, it might not make a lick of sense. But if you slow down, the threads of the language often untangle themselves. I wonder if McGowan chose this style to represent Catrine's state of mind and emotion. I'm also finding that because I've concentrated hard on understanding a scene (it's also very visual to me, as well as auditory) I'm rewarded with very vivid pictures in my mind -- pictures with staying power. I am having a bit of a hard time keeping the characters straight. Just who is Bea? Did I miss something? When I found myself in a scene with Catrine and Bea in a conservatory, I had the urge to thumb back through the book and find out how she had been introduced, but knew that because of the nature of the book, this would be almost impossible. But I'm hoping to be able to give a big push today. Maybe things will start falling into place. Sherry
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (3 of 20), Read 41 times Conf: Reading List From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Friday, November 15, 2002 08:44 AM I did the same thing when I encountered Bea, Sherry. I'm done with the book and still don't know exactly how Bea fits in. In fact, Bea isn't the only person we encounter that way. But I think it's part of the way Catrine's life is right now. People enter and leave and she doesn't have a lot of control over it. Lynn
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (4 of 20), Read 38 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, November 15, 2002 02:03 PM And here I hoped someone here would set me straight on Bea. But on second thought, I think Lynn's comment is a good one. People come in and out, and Catrine doesn't have much control. I do think the best way to read this is the way I read Faulkner, just let it wash over you and don't worry about the finer points of trying to nail down every fact. It'll sort itself out. I have the feeling that what's most important here is that we lose ourselves in Catrine, and experience things from her viewpoint. Does anyone agree? Ruth
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (5 of 20), Read 35 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Friday, November 15, 2002 04:24 PM I agree that the book became easier to understand as I went along and grew accustomed to its rhythms, but it never became too easy. I can't wholeheartedly agree that the lack of clarity simply reflects Catrine's lack of clarity, because there are sections from other people's points of view (largely Betts. I am eagerly awaiting other people's thoughts on Betts!) As for Bea--before Aurora left Monstead, she gave Catrine Bea's name and address. I gather she lives in town, was a friend of Aurora's family and used to take Aurora on excursions as she did Catrine. A way to get away from school on those free afternoons! I thought McGowan captured beautifully the difference between one's self-image and the image one projects, true for us all and especially true at Catrine's age. So many people characterized her negatively, (surly and so on), and few picked up on her vulnerability and confusion. Mary Ellen
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (6 of 20), Read 30 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, November 15, 2002 06:13 PM I'm glad you're joining us on this one, Mary Ellen. Good observations. I want to digress just a second here to talk about the cover. I thought it was just exactly right. As most of you know, Balthus is notorious for his girls on the cusp of puberty. (Some of his are much more suggestive than this one.) Here's the painting in its entirety. Balthus Therese, 1938 Ruth
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (7 of 20), Read 32 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Friday, November 15, 2002 06:27 PM There's an interesting difference in the use of that painting on the covers of the US edition and the Dutch language edition also Ruth -- the latter has actually reversed the painting and the rather provocative leg slung lazily over the knee is the part of the picture which is wrapped around the spine and thus is played down rather than highlighted as on the US cover. Dottie "I take a nap."..."It doesn't help much, but then again it doesn't do any harm." the King of Love, in Lava, Pamela Ball
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (8 of 20), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, November 15, 2002 08:34 PM Hmm, interesting, Dottie. How are you coming on this one? Ruth
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (9 of 20), Read 20 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, November 16, 2002 03:35 PM Have any of you finished the book yet? MaryEllen wants to discuss Betts. I want to talk about Mr. Gilbert. Ruth
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (10 of 20), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Saturday, November 16, 2002 05:43 PM I am running behind on this one -- but having begun reading for the second time yesterday (late) -- I can say that somewhere between the first start and this one some kind of magic has happened -- I just started swimming right along. Trouble is that this weekend being pretty much scheduled led to not much time to swim -- so I'm not even to the 100 page mark as yet. But I can see getting through this quickly once I can sit down and really give myself up to reading it -- it has been sooooo hard staying away from it today. Dottie "I take a nap."..."It doesn't help much, but then again it doesn't do any harm." the King of Love, in Lava, Pamela Ball
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (11 of 20), Read 11 times Conf: Reading List From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Sunday, November 17, 2002 04:38 PM I think I've already said I'm finished, but if not, I am! Thanks for the cluing me in about Bea, Mary Ellen. I totally missed that, or else it drifted out of my mind between the time it was mentioned and when Catrine showed up at the conservatory with Bea. I definitely want to talk about Betts and Gilbert... but I want to talk about all of them! Lynn
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (12 of 20), Read 12 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, November 17, 2002 05:19 PM So can we talk, or are there others that want us to hold off a bit? Ruth
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (13 of 20), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Sunday, November 17, 2002 06:42 PM I still have a bit to go, but talk away. I'll keep my eyes shielded. Sherry
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (14 of 20), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: Mark Englert granfalloon@webdelight.net Date: Sunday, November 17, 2002 07:13 PM Alas, I haven't finished it either. That's what I get for reading two books at once. I'm very impressed with it so far, though; it's just spellbinding. I will definitely look forward to her next novel. And perhaps I'll offer more substantive comments once I've finished the book. ; ) Mark
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (15 of 20), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, November 17, 2002 07:41 PM Ruth, I'm reading it now. It's a lot slower going than I thought it would be, but I WILL finish it, do or die! Beej
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (16 of 20), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Sunday, November 17, 2002 09:21 PM I have finished. I keep thinking that Catrine must be tremendously attractive to men. There is the incident with Paul, and Brickie seems to be enthralled with her as well as Gilbert. I also want to discuss Gilbert and Betts. I can't imagine an American school where it would be all right for a single male teacher to call up the head (principal) to say that a 13-year-old girl was staying at his place for a few hours. Gilbert really worried me all the way through. Maybe, it is because I am a teacher, and I know how vulnerable children can be. Gilbert seems to make fun of her American accent and her hair at the beginning, and then he stops once he finds her attractive. At the end, I kept thinking, "What the hell is wrong with her father? Why didn't he come and pick her up?" Jane
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (17 of 20), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Sunday, November 17, 2002 10:02 PM I felt as if there was a large disconnect between Catrine and her father. I suspect it was tied to the loss of his wife; perhaps Catrine reminded him too much of her mother. When he sent her to Monstead it was kind of like "out of sight, out of mind". He didn't seem to know how to interact with her when they were together either. Lynn
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (18 of 20), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, November 17, 2002 11:21 PM I, too, felt that something was out of kilter in that father-daughter relationship. But we're not given much clue as to whether it's due to the mother's death, or if Catrine's relationship to her father has always been distant. If the latter is true, it could at least partially account for the trauma Catrine feels upon the death of her mother. Ruth
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (19 of 20), Read 10 times Conf: Reading List From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Monday, November 18, 2002 08:31 AM You're right, Ruth. There aren't many clues and it's easily as possible the relationship between Catrine and her father was always that way. She did seem to be more affected by her mother's death than by the subsequent separation from her father when she went to Monstead. I was very curious about the cast of characters at Monstead. Of course, we have to rely on Catrine's descriptions, but I got the feeling that every one of the faculty and staff was pretty quirky. This seemed to be different from how it was in her father's day, but I got the feeling that could have been the result of time changing the memory -- that perhaps it was a "marginal" educational institution even then. Lynn
From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Monday, November 18, 2002 10:44 AM Well -- not only did I just start swimming through this -- I've been going at a rapid pace in spite of the small amount of time I've had for reading over the weekend -- I'm on my way into the final third of the book and still finding it moves right along. Before it slips the sieve -- somewhere in a short period when I was into this book yesterday -- I found myself suddenly laughing out loud at the thought engendered by the passage I was reading. The thought was -- "this is 'The Breakfast Club' meets Virginia Woolf." Dottie "I take a nap."..."It doesn't help much, but then again it doesn't do any harm." the King of Love, in Lava, Pamela Ball
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Monday, November 18, 2002 12:05 PM I just this minute finished, and my mind is awhirl. I SPOILERS possible, but who knows what is true. I have many questions, but here's just one for starters. So, am I to take it that the motorcycle man just walked away? Or was that wishful thinking. If he walked away, why was there so much angst on Catrine's part? Was she just making up her own ending? Sherry
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (22 of 28), Read 18 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, November 18, 2002 01:07 PM I think perhaps Catrine herself doesn't know the answer to that one, Sherry. You know kids, they probably skedaddled when they realized they'd hit the guy, never told a soul and never did find out what actually happened to him. Or maybe you're right. She's making it up--confusing what could have happened with what did happen. Now I want to throw out the question--how much was Catrine responsible for what happened between her and Gilbert? Ruth
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (23 of 28), Read 21 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Monday, November 18, 2002 01:20 PM Jane -- I, too was worried about Gilbert from the beginning (and was a teacher, myself, as well!). Starting with the remark, "too much bed, too little sleep." What kind of a thing is that to say to a student of any age, but particularly to a 13-yr-old? Sherry-- Your question about the motorcycle man has set me thinking. I automatically thought it was wishful thinking that had him walking away, that Catrine just didn't know what happened to him and had always assumed the worst (or, perhaps, the most dramatic? She clearly loves drama--hadn't looked at it this way till just now). As to Betts: I didn't know what to make of him. In the beginning, I just thought he was creepy, lurking around all the time. Then, after reading a couple of passages in which he reminisces about his friend (forgot his name!) I felt sort of sorry for him, saw him as a frustrated man, unhappy with his position at a second-rate school and "in the closet," therefore unhappy in his relationships too. But still a little creepy: spreading his misery where he could. Not till the end (SPOILER, maybe?) did I consider the possibility that he saw through Gilbert and was actually "lurking around" for Catrine's good. (Glad someone had the sense to call her father!) But I don't know where I end up in his regard. Mary Ellen
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (24 of 28), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Monday, November 18, 2002 02:56 PM I got the feeling that Catrine had a crush on Gilbert early on and encouraged the development of some sort of relationship between the two of them. I think she just got scared when things escalated beyond the point she had envisioned in her mind. It also seemed as if there was a bit of revenge on Catrine's part after she figured out Gilbert lied to her about why he didn't show up in the library that time. I think that was part of her motivation in telling Betts that Gilbert acted inappropriately. Lynn
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (25 of 28), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Monday, November 18, 2002 03:26 PM Ruth, you asked how much was Catrine's responsibility. None. She's a kid (even if she's not just ten--I thought that was a particularly telling comment), he's not. But I think he wants to be. I think he doesn't want to think of himself as getting older and balding and Squeaky. He wants to leave himself open to all sorts of young possibilities, he sees beauty in youth, and he dabbles in youth just like he dabbles in art. I also thought, Lynn, that she was getting revenge, but not just for the library. She had also figured out who the nude in blue was --Fiona, the other student. Jealously, plus the realization that he really did treat everybody like that, made her tell. Sherry
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (26 of 28), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Monday, November 18, 2002 04:35 PM Excellent point about her jealousy over the subject of the "Nude in Blue", Sherry. I had forgotten all about her discovering that little bit. And you're right of course, that she had no moral responsibility for what took place between the two of them. However, I think she (consciously or unconsciously) played up to Gilbert's desire to be young and attractive. What I'm not so sure of is what role he was fulfilling for her. Lynn
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (27 of 28), Read 9 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, November 18, 2002 06:33 PM Lynn, I think she needed an ally, and a father figure, and don't forget, this kid was 13, I think her budding sexuality got all mixed up into it, too. No wonder she couldn't sort her feelings out. I felt she definitely led him on, maybe not consciously, but there was a bit of enticement there. Or am I off the wall in this? Ruth
From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Monday, November 18, 2002 06:52 PM Yes, thirteen is a tough enough age without having to deal with the death of a parent, a move across the ocean and adjusting to life in a boarding school. I was very glad I wasn't in her shoes! Lynn
From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2002 04:08 PM I tried really hard to go to bed last night but this book kept me glued to it -- I was in the last section and there was no way I could extricate myself and go to sleep without "hearing" the entire story that unfolded in Catrine's voice in that last portion of the book. What a finish! I think the motorcycle man walked away -- I think all the other mulling over of options was a matter of not being sure of anything after the death of her mother -- of all that had happened during that period being fuzzed and buried and feeling unreal once she was so far away from the setting and the events began to recede as the days passed and all the new events and people were bombarding her. I think the father was simply not aware of just how things were different -- certainly Catrine was not voicing anything to clue him in -- she is protecting him from her own problems in adjustment -- seeing that he is moving on but not healing any more rapidly it seems than is she. She keeps him uniformed. She also is definitely "taken" with Gilbert despite all the warnings which are proffered. He seems to have been known for this behavior among the students -- but I have a vague thought that someone among the staff said something which indicated suspicions at least existed among them as well. What a mess. Betts certainly seemed to know something -- so I'm not sure how I feel about him overall either. An amazing book, and to my Breakfast Club, Virginia Woolf mixture I would add against a broad background of Nabakov's Lolita with plenty of literary and art references to keeps us busy. A great read though some sections near the end almost did me in! Probably more to say later -- just wanted to get the first thoughts out here. Dottie "What one knows one must know with a sword in one's hand....Let me go please let me go." Schooling, Heather Mc Gowan
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (30 of 40), Read 32 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2002 04:16 PM I agree, Dottie, that last section is a wild ride. Ruth
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (31 of 40), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2002 08:37 PM Ruth, you said that you thought the style of writing allowed you to be right inside Catrine's mind. It didn't strike me that way, exactly. As Mary Ellen pointed out, we have Betts' thoughts, too. And they are a little more ordered, but still there's this stream of consciousness feel to it. I had to focus pretty hard to stay with the book. And I know some stuff got away from me. So, why do you think McGowan chose to write in such a style? I found it difficult, but rewarding in a lot of ways. It reminded me of when I tried to read Le Stranger in French. I had to work very hard, but by the time I had the images in my head, they were there to stay. Sherry
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (32 of 40), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 12:06 AM Until Mary Ellen mentioned it, I'd completely forgotten those bits where we stray from Catrine's POV. Golly, I don't know why she chose this style. It's a challenge for both writer and reader. She had to know that some people were going to give up early in the book. But every style has its advantages, and I suspect she wanted what this would give her. It was a bit confusing at first, but I thought that the ending was worth it. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster. I doubt I would have felt so much that way in any other style of writing. Ruth
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (33 of 40), Read 18 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 06:59 AM Did you say she might join us? I wish she would. I would love to hear about writing this. It certainly seems difficult. Sometimes she had three scenes going at once, and she didn't even change sentences when she shifted from one to the other. That must have been almost impossible to keep track of. I know that if she had chosen a straight-forward style, the book would have had less of an impact. Sherry
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (34 of 40), Read 23 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 07:32 AM I found this to be very similar to reading a play where the parts "step on" one another -- where everyone is talking at once and the result which is inside one's own head is often as not -- not EXACTLY accurate but is what one hears the other person as saying. The unreliable narrator but not exactly -- more the unreliable being of each of us. We hear but often as not don't hear what is said to us. We hear with our own ear tuned to our own interpretive stations. We hear but it gets translated. There was some of this between Catrine and her father as well as between her and others. A fascinating and fitting style for telling this story -- or many others -- though somehow it seems especially to fit here. I would love to hear from her what led to the choice of style especially as she has had a play published and staged. I'd be interested in reading that play in fact to compare it and the novel. Dottie "What one knows one must know with a sword in one's hand....Let me go please let me go." Schooling, Heather Mc Gowan
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (35 of 40), Read 24 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 11:20 AM I talked to Heather's mom about whether she could join us. It's iffy. Evidently we've caught her right in the middle of buying and moving to her first house. Ruth
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (36 of 40), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 12:06 PM Oh, man!..do I ever feel bad for her!! Beej, whowillnevermoveagain.
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (37 of 40), Read 24 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 01:40 PM It's interesting to know that McGowan has written plays, too, because the idea of plays was threaded through the novel. First, those playlet sections (I usually got lost in those & often didn't get the point) and then the play or plays that the students were staging (The Birds, and maybe something else? Look Back in Anger?). And wasn't Betts's old student friend an actor, and they'd drifted apart over a part the friend took against Betts's advice? (And did quite well with, I think.) I don't think I've ever read The Birds. Is someone familiar enough with it, that you can suggest why they're doing that play, and how those scenes interact with the rest of the novel? Ruth, I don't think you are "off the wall," or anyway, we both are, because I also felt Catrine was trying to entice him as well, though without much of an idea as to where it could lead, I think. She seemed a young thirteen, in some ways--just the year before she still liked imaginary horseback riding in a tree (which Isabel had outgrown), and in the end she says "I've never kissed a boy." I found that line very sweet and I would hope that it cut Gilbert, who should have known so much better, to the heart. (I found his reaction in the last scene to follow perfectly what I'd read in a NY Times article this spring. The reporter had interviewed therapists who'd worked with sex abusers of adolescents, and found them confused men who did not "see" the age/power differential between them & the young people they'd abused. And they often said, but he, or she, led me on.) Mary Ellen
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (38 of 40), Read 18 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 07:05 PM I've known of Aristophanes’ The Birds since college, but I’ve never read it. Google turns up waddles of stuff. Try these links for commentary: http://www.theatrehistory.com/ancient/bates026.html http://www.temple.edu/classics/birdsnotes.html And this one takes you to a text: http://classics.mit.edu/Aristophanes/birds.html Ruth
Topic: SCHOOLING - Heather McGowan (39 of 40), Read 7 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, November 21, 2002 10:10 PM I have talked to Diane Freeman about this book, and I must be the only one who thought that the whole book was from Catrine's head. I thought that she was making up those stories about Betts in her head. Otherwise, what is the point of throwing those in? I don't care how seductive she was, Gilbert was wrong, wrong, wrong. He seemed to be attracted to girls and women of all ages. What a creep! Jane
From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, November 21, 2002 10:34 PM Very interesting, Jane, about those being Catrine's thoughts of Betts & Co. Hmmm. Entirely possible. I'd have to read it again to be able to say more. I didn't feel Gilbert was entirely a creep, certainly not at first. Altho I agree with you, there was definitely something strange, not only in his taking Catrine home with him that first time, but in the school's acceptance of it. I chalked it up to cultural differences, and differences in time. What was the time frame of this book anyway? I forget exactly, but I had the impression it was set some time back, when perhaps people were not as hyper about sexual molestation issues as they have been lately. Of course, Catrine is a young kid. We expect the adults around her to have more sense than she does. Certainly Gilbert should have known better. But, she did entice him, I feel, and he evidently wasn't playing with a full deck. Not nutz. But deep into self-deception. A bad combination, those two. Ruth
From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Friday, November 22, 2002 05:11 PM Ruth, I checked out the Temple site. It set "The Birds" in historical context and provided a synopsis of the play, which has to do with 2 old men who, trying to escape wicked Athens, establish a kingdom in the sky with ... the birds. But the first bird they search for is the Hoopoe, and here's HIS story: "Tereus was once the king of Thrace and married to the Athenian princess Procne. He raped Procne's sister, Philomena, and to prevent her from revealing the crime, he imprisoned her and cut out her tongue. But Philomena managed to inform her sister of the outrage, and in revenge, Procne killed her only son by Tereus, Itys. When Tereus discovered the crime, he took up his axe and perused the sisters, but the gods, taking pity, turned Procne into the nightingale (who we meet later in the play), Philomena into a swallow, and Tereus into the Hoopoe with its long, sharp beak." (Hum.) So, a central figure in The Birds is a nasty guy who raped a woman and then silenced her to protect himself. Well, Tereus makes Gilbert seem almost benign, but I now want to go back to the book to see if/how he attempts to "silence" Catrine. (If memory serves, his attempts were of a pathetic, bribing sort-- buying her the green shoes, for example.) Another thought: Catrine's father is trying to make an escape of his own, as folks have noted here. The Temple notes state that "The Birds" mocks the idea of escape (a bunch of unsavory Athenians settle in the bird kingdom by the end). One can imagine that Catrine's father will have to face the fact that Monstead is no idyllic refuge once Betts and Catrine arrive at his doorstep. (I felt sorry for her father from the beginning, dealing with his own loss and without much skill in relating to his daughter at a notoriously difficult age.) Of course, McGowan could have chosen "The Birds" just so that she could have that character running around in his beak/mask throughout the book. (I found that very annoying, but on reflection I realize that at that age--and beyond!--most of us wear masks to hide our perceived inadequacies from everyone around us.) Mary Ellen
From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, November 23, 2002 08:33 PM I found myself wondering if Heather was trying to draw some kind of parallel between Monstead itself and the kingdom of the birds. The school and its characters as a kind of other world. BTW, in addition to plays, she was co-author of the screenplay for the movie TADPOLE. Ruth
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, November 24, 2002 12:22 AM I just finished Schooling this morning. I think I felt it a little more personally because my mother died when I was young too. I only mention this because I know how vulnerable that makes a preteen/teenager. I don't really think that Gilbert was a monster. At some level, he did want to comfort her. And, I had the impression that Catrine was walking around in a numb, dream-like state (I know I did), looking for comfort, but with an emotional shield up to protect herself from further pain. She was a sitting duck for all of his confused impulses. About the question of enticement, I think that is a pretty common thing among young teenaged girls as they teeter between child and adult. The adults who teach them have to be emotionally mature and solid enough to help them deal with that. But, in the real world, of course, there are going to be Mr. Gilberts. And, actually, Catrine came through the whole thing pretty well. What did you all think of Owen Wharton? I found him to be very likeable, but kept wondering if I was missing some significance. Barb
From: Diane Freeman dfreeman@jeffco.k12.co.us Date: Sunday, November 24, 2002 01:18 PM I found the style to be a bit of a struggle to keep straight, but it did get easier as the book went along and I became accustomed to reading without benefit of quotation marks and such. Still, I thought McGowan really shone in the part that was written as Catrine's "fifteen sides" punishment for being caught rifling through Betts' office with Brickie, the story told from her father's POV as a seventeen-year-old returning to his small Welsh home town. That bit illuminated a great deal about who her father was and why their relationship was not strong. Clearly his home life was miserable, his interpersonal skills not strong, and he was never the sharpest knife in the drawer. It's in Part 2, chapter 11. Diane
From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, November 26, 2002 10:31 AM Barb--I expected Owen Wharton to have a more significant role in the book, and was disappointed when he didn't. I had thought Catrine's attention might shift from Gilbert to Owen (he did rescue her, after all). The only connection I saw was with Betts; he definitely was Betts's favored student, reminding him of Mahesh (or, if those Betts sections were actually Catrine's musings about Betts, her model for Mahesh). It did not dawn on me that Catrine had written the section on her father's youth in Part II (just as I took the Betts sections, face value, as Betts and thought the initial pages were, in fact, narrated by her father). I still am not sure, because the Catrine who could come up with all those imaginative, insightful pieces seems a very different person from the young, sheltered apple-trees-as-horses girl. Mary Ellen
Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, November 26, 2002 09:03 PM Mary Ellen, I guess that I thought that everything was a product of Catrine's mind because most of the book is written from her point of view. I thought that her father had told her about his past and that she was recounting it to us. I also thought that she made up the part about Mahesh because she seemed to have made up the story between Betts and the French teacher. Jane

 

 

 
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