My reading life has been consumed with graduate school. Lately I’ve been studying Professional Capital by Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan, A School Leader’s Guide to Excellence by Carmen Farina (New York City’s new chancellor) and Laura Scott, countless articles on gifted education, and the middle grades novel Al Capone Does My Shirts to study narrative progression with a colleague. Add into the mix a (wonderful) trip out of town and a Saturday conference, and it makes sense that my writing about reading–and just fiction reading–hasn’t been happening at a quick pace.
I finished The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obrecht a few weeks ago. I usually like to read reviews after I finished the book, but with this one and the unfocused reading life I’ve had lately, I actually wish I read this New York Times Book Review before I read it, so I could have done some better critical thinking about the beautiful work Obrecht did throughout the story. The overarching narrative is about a young woman living in a vague post-war setting in the Balkans who is working to finish her medical training. On her way to deliver medical aid to a small town, she learns her grandfather just died. When she goes to pick up his belongings from where he died, Obrecht interweaves stories of her grandfather’s youth, which are essentially tales of superstitious new myths.
This post has been sitting in draft form for a couple weeks as I’ve frantically tried to grade papers, read articles, write papers, create presentations. The weather outside remained cold and my days at work felt frantic preparing my students for the state test. Sitting down to finish this post again, I felt like I had nothing to say. But then I started thinking about the crux of the story for me: when one of the characters tells the narrator: “We’re all entitled to our superstitions,” (272). At the moment, the narrator is the only one in the story who didn’t have some kind of stake in the unexplainable. She armed herself with medical know-how and pragmatism–and until this moment in the story, her relationship with myth and superstitions was cynical at best. By the novel’s end, she doesn’t become a believer in magic, per se, but she does not remain the same.
I’ve been so task-oriented, busy, and mad about the weather that I’ve forgotten to remember the existence of magic in the world. My mental respites have been thinking about a future that doesn’t yet belong to me: one where I have some land and a garden, woods to walk in, seasonal rhythms that don’t involve honking cars or paved streets. Of course, hoping for this future isn’t necessarily bad, but I do think it is existentially dangerous to live without a touch of superstition, or rather, an awareness of the beautiful and mysterious.
My hope is that this weekend, amidst the work, I would remember some stories and revel in what I can’t explain. (And I wish I could reread The Tiger’s outside of my task oriented life, on a blanket in the park. You should read it that way.)