Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Virgil's Aeneid: Last Thoughts

I'm still thinking about the Aeneid.

The ending of the book has left my mind reeling.  As I looked into interpretations of the final scene, I found that almost all traditional literary critics seem to emphasize the piety of Aeneas (meaning his sense of responsibility to fate and his homeland, rather than religious piety) rather than his passion, even at the end of the book.  It is Turnus that is portrayed as the out-of-control person.

I was not completely convinced.

1. Perhaps the killing of Turnus is Virgil's articulation that responsibility, not emotional self-control, is more important.  When one's duty conflicts with passion (as in the case with Dido), passion is wrong.  When duty dovetails with one's passions, there is nothing wrong with it.  That is, is this really a story about passion versus stoicism--or just a story about living up to your fated role, no matter what (in this case, of founding the Roman Empire)?

2. What does Aeneas do next?  Does he regret killing Turnus in anger?  And does he return the body to Turnus's family as the young man requests, allowing him to have an honorable death?  If Virgil is assuming that Aeneas thought what he did was both "pious" (killing Turnus) and compassionate (sending the body back), does that change how we feel?

3. Perhaps the reason this book has remained so relevant is because there is room for the reader to interpret in a variety of ways.  The text makes room for interpretations which Virgil might never have considered.

4. Or perhaps Virgil intended to teach us that people are complex and that what is "right" (or even what is desired) is not always easy to ascertain.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Solstice

Rage, Rage, against the dying of the light.
--Dylan Thomas

solstice bread
Solstice Bread, made by my partner David and our son

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Virgil's Aeneid's Road of Hatred

In the final chapter of Virgil's Aeneid, our hero faces a conflict between passion and duty that is quite different from the one in faced in chapter 4.   As the battle rages on between the Romans and the native peoples of Italy, Aeneas, "ferocious in armor," confronts Turnus, who has killed Aeneas's best friend on the battlefield.

After long battle, Turnus realizes that he has been vanquished by the more-powerful Aeneas.  He lowers his eyes in defeat and begs Aeneas to save his life, or at least send his dead body to his family.  Says Turnus, "I stretch my hands to you, so the men of Latium have seen me in defeat.  Lavinia is your bride."  That is, the land of Italy is now Rome.  And then he continues: "Go no further down the road of hatred."

Luca Giordano, Enea vince Turno

Aeneas pauses for a moment, swayed by his natural desire to be compassionate.  But at that moment, he looks down at Turnus's body and sees his dead friend's sword-belt.  He calls it a "keepsake of his own savage grief."  All of Aeneas's sense of reason and duty fly out of him as passionate anger takes over.  Aeneas, "flaring up in fury, terrible in his rage," plunges his sword into the body of Turnis below him.  "Turnus' limbs went limp in the chill of death.  His life breath fled with a groan of outrage down to the shades below."

So ends the Aeneid.

(All quotes in today's post are from the the Fagles translation.)

In my last post, Aeneas leaves Dido in Carthage, despite his love for her and her pleas for him to stay with her.  It is only by abandoning his passions in the name of duty and self-control.  But here at the end of the epic, in its very final sentences, Aeneas gives in to his passionate rage and kills Turnus.

Instead of some wrapped-up Disney movie ending, we get the kind that sends us to the cafe for long conversations about what it all means.

In general, Virgil's epic glorifies the war, despite his acknowledgment that war always requires sacrifice.  Although it is possible that a cool-headed Aeneas might have decided that the risk of letting Turnus remain alive might have been too great a threat to Rome.  But Aeneas is not at all cool headed in this moment of slaughter.  And at least if we are to believe him, Turnus accepts that he has lost and is ready to accept his defeat completely in his desire to create peace.  Aeneas cannot accept this move.  Losing the people he loves--certainly Turnus and perhaps Dido as well--causes such deep sorrow for Aeneas that he can no longer respond with compassion and humanity.

When he rejects the voice of passionate love, Aeneas causes the death of his beloved Dido.

When he listens to the voice of passionate anger, Aeneas causes the death of not only Turnus but he cuts off all chance of true peace.

Out of Aeneas's uncontrolled rage comes Empire.  Is Empire ever created in any other way?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Virgil's Aeneid: Passion versus Responsibility

Peter Paul Rubens,  Dido and Aeneas
My favorite chapter in Virgil's Aeneid is Book 4. Here is the great love affair between Aeneas and Queen Dido of Carthage, with whom he found refuge from the storms at sea after he left Troy. Like Aeneas, it has been Dido's fate to leave her original home in order to found a new homeland for herself and her people. While hearing Aeneas tell the story of the end of the Trojan war and his subsequent journeyings, Dido falls in love with him.

In some ways, Dido echos characters like Calypso and Circe in Homer's Odyssey. Just as they did, Dido serves as a love interest who delays the hero's fated journey towards home. But Virgil gives Dido a kind of emotional depth which is totally lacking in Homer's women. Her love for Aeneas becomes a desperate passion, and we are meant as readers to see her great pain and identify with it. Of course, the depth of her feelings are not quite "real": the goddesses Venus and Juno have collaborated to curse her so.

And Aeneas certainly loves Dido back, although perhaps without quite as much of the goddess-inspired self-destructive passion that burns in Dido.

One of the most beautiful scenes in book four is when Dido and Aeneas, along with the other Tryians and Trojans, are out riding horses.  An enormous rainstorm blows in, then turns to hail.  All scatter and seek shelter.

And Dido and the Trojan leader make their way
To the same cave.  Earth herself and bridal Juno
Give the signal.  Fires flash in the Sky,
Witness to their nuptials...
...No longer is Dido swayed
By appearances or her good name.  No more
Does she contemplate a secret love.  She calls it
Marriage, and with that word she cloaks her sin.

When the gods hear of Aeneas's love affair with Dido, they immediately reprimand him.  Jupiter, pointing out that "he seems to have quite forgotten, in his infatuation, the cities given him by Fate," sends Mercury to tell Aeneas that "in sum, he must sail."  If he would not fulfill his responsibility for his own glory, he must do it he must for his son and for the future of Rome.

When Aeneas heard Jupiter's command, he realized that despite his love for Dido, his greater responsibility was to found Rome.  "He bristled all over, speechless, astounded,/ And he burned with desire to leave that sweet land,/ in awe of the commandment from the gods above."  More than any personal passion was Aeneas's responsibility to live obedient to the laws of Fate.  He begins to prepare his fleet to set sail.

Dido is furious.  As this Moreau pen-and-ink illustrates, she confronts Aeneas:

Traitor!  Did you actually hope to conceal
This crime and sneak away without telling me?
Does our love mean nothing to you? Does it matter
That we pledged ourselves to each other?
Do you care that Dido will die a cruel death?

If you had at least left me with child
Before deserting me, if only a baby Aeneas
Were playing in my hall to help me remember you,
I wouldn't feel some completely used and abandoned.

Comments Virgil, "Cruel Love, what do you not force human hearts to bear?"

Although Aeneas expected Dido to be upset upon hearing that he planned to leave Carthage, Aeneas seems quite shocked by the depth of her fury.  While he acknowleges that Dido has "earned [his] gratitude," he denies marrying her.  And he feels that rather than giving in to his own passion, his greater duty is to obey the gods, to honor his son's inheritance, and to live up to his destiny to found Rome.  He concludes, "So stop wounding both of us with your pleas.  It is not my own will--this quest for Italy."

Things do not end well for Dido: "Dido, worn down by grief, went mad."  She prepares a funeral pyre to rid Carthage of everything Aeneas had touched.  She throws herself upon it with a sword given to her by Aeneas.  And as she is about to die, she looks upon the clothes he used to wear and upon their "familiar bed."

Aeneas unfurls the sails of his ship and pulls away from shore, watching the flaming pyre from sea.

(all quotes from the Lombardo translation)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Virgil's Aeneid: Finding a Way

AeneidMy current journey into the classics was in many ways sparked by one book. In the course of my education, I had never read the Aeneid, nor did I even know the main plot of Virgil's story.

When my 12yo homeschooled son begin to read the Homeric epics, I felt no compunction to read either of them with him. I more or less knew what he was getting into.  Back when I was eighteen, I read the Odyssey on my own and enjoyed it thoroughly. Although I had chosen to refrain from reading the military adventures of the Iliad, I knew its basic plot.

But when my son picked up the story of Aeneas and his quest to found Rome, I realized I didn't have a clue. I decided I should read the book alongside my son.  And eventually, it inspired me to take my own journey--one through the classics of literature with an emphasis on all those ancient Western texts I never learned.

In Search of a Homeland: The Story of the AeneidI read the Lombardo translation of the Aeneid while my son read the Fagles translation. Both are beautifully done.  Often I compared the two writers' translations of particular passages--and more or less alternated which I thought was most beautiful or most readable.  Either translation would be a fine way for a young person or adult to approach the epic for the first time, although the supporting references seem slightly stronger in the Fagles. And don't miss the fine audio version of the Fagles translation read by Simon Callow.  If you are sharing this story with a young person, try the beautifully illustrated youth version by Penelope Lively.

When I opened the book for the first time, I found myself struggling to follow some of what Virgil was saying.  I generally think of text as a transparent door into another world.  But barriers in the Aeneid keep that door a bit shaded.  References to Roman names kept me turning to the glossary, especially as the book started--and also in book six (the underworld scene).

After just one afternoon of reading, I was stunned to realize how many stories and names and phrases in our culture come from Virgil's Aeneid.  From the Aeneid comes everything from the idea of rumors "flying" to specific phrases like "Greeks bearing gifts."  (The story of the Trojan horse, not mentioned in the Iliad, is told fully here.)

I was also surprised to realize how incredibly poetic the book is.  I did know that Virgil used the Homeric rhythm of dactylic hexameter to write his epic, but the more I thought about the idea of borrowing a meter developed for the Greek language to write a long work in Latin, the more I realized how conscious of the rigors of language Virgil must have been.  What I did not expect was the beauty of similes, the depth of images, and the deep emotions expressed.

What struck me the most was the degree that Virgil's Aeneid seemed so intensely modern at times.  Yes--like Homer, Virgil assumes that the drama acted out by the central human characters is often because the script is constructed by the gods.  But the range of emotions played out by the characters--especially Aeneas and Dido--is stunningly immediate.

The Aeneid (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) [DECKLE EDGE]"Wars and a man I sing" begins the Fagles's translation of the Aeneid.  With this phrase, Virgil announces his homage to Homer: the Aeneid is a book that echos the both Homeric epics: the Iliad ("wars") and the Odyssey ("and a man").  In contrast to Homer, however, we here have not the Greek side but the Trojan.

By connecting his nationalistic myth to the Homeric epics, Virgil gives a sense of inevitability to the founding of Rome. He places the Aeneid into the long flow of time--both literally and literarily.  Rome starts feeling like a grand culmination of the great history that came before.

The first six books track the story line of the Odyssey.  Aeneid recounts the story of the end of the Trojan war as well as his travels afterwards. While Odysseus winds his weary way home, Aeneas travels into the unknown, fated to found a new homeland. The last six books in the Aeneid track the Iliad, with Aeneas slaughtering the native people of Italy in order to found the Roman Empire.  (Manifest Destiny, anyone?). 

In my next post, I'll share my thoughts about the first section.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Making a Republic--at St. Johns

Roger Martin's Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again is the real-life story that reads like many an adult dream.  At the age of 61, Martin takes a sabbatical from his academic job to enroll as a freshman at St. John's College in Annapolis.  St. John's is sometimes called "the great books college"--where all students read the classics of Western culture from Homer and Plato in the first year to Tolstoy and Hegel the senior year.  Instead of lectures by professors, there are seminars with tutors.  Instead of majors, everyone studies the same basic curriculum.  Instead of competitive grades, there are discussions with advisors.  If you don't know about this school already, just check out their reading list and see if you don't start dreaming about being 18 with a clean slate ahead of you.

Martin's assumptions about the slate ahead of him at 61 are reduced not only by his age but his experience of a very serious illness (metastatic melanoma) a few years before his time at St. Johns.  Even more than most of us, he needs to see his place in life as part of the long flow of time and also one that allows personal growth.  "I needed to prove to myself that I still had a future," writes Martin.  "That even in my sixties I cold grow into a different person" and "learn new things."  Reading timeless books made him timeless in its own way.  "In short, I discovered that my life wasn't winding down," he says, but rather "in many ways it was just beginning, with a refreshed sense of commitment and confidence in what I could be."

Yes--the entire book is about as upbeat as this final realization of his.  And there are times when Martin's incessantly positive style kind of grates on my way-too-serious personality.  There are moments that Martin seems to avoid giving any criticisms at all of the college, perhaps for fear of offending the school or its students.  At the same time, I found Martin's story of his time at St. Johns charming--and the detailed information about the education at the college absolutely fascinating.

Martin's story chronicles how his personal life intertwines with both his academic studies and his extracurricular activities at the school.  Although he shies away from any significant discussion of the literature he is reading and discussing in the college seminars, he does suggest how their main themes connect to the life he builds outside the classroom.

Perhaps the most direct connection is one he makes when reading Plato's Republic.  Martin decides in his first days on campus to fully embrace the freshman experience and go out for crew.  As he explains, the college encourges all students to go out for any sport--ideally one in which they are have no experience but would like to try, even if they were not athletes in high school.  Even though he calls himself the "old fart" in the boat and worries that he might hurt his team, Martin gives his all and finds that the students with whom he studies and plays have truly turned into a community.  Just as they have seen in their reading of Plato around the seminar table, the students have combined scholarship and physicality to create whole beings.  Plato would argue that they will be neither too savage from only physical training nor too "soft" from only receiving education in the arts.  Instead they will be both courageous and "cultivated." (This post is not the place to analyze how Plato's assumptions might be gendered, but I'm not prohibiting you from thinking about that question.)  And according to Martin, the students also learn through their athletic competition that it is through their work together--the work of each one of them, regardless of his or her position--that they build their little Republic.

I very much enjoyed Martin's book.  It is a quick read--and while it is not one that will make you flex your intellectual muscles, it offers both an inspiring story of an individual's reckoning with mortality, an impassioned defense of a true liberal arts education, and a lens into a fascinating world.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Back to books tomorrow, but here's a little silliness to tide you over:

halloween bento

The Jack-o-lanterns are made from sushi rice which we cooked with shredded carrot and then formed into balls. My son meticulously cut out the faces from sheets of nori.  For the stems, we used some food picks shaped like leaves, but you could easily use a little piece of green bean or something.  We got the idea for the pumpkin onigiri from the blog Happy Little Bento.

The severed fingers are hotdogs (which we got at the Amish farm where we buy our meat) with a few slices here and there--very easy and quite, well, disarming.... Directions can be found at Adventures in BentoMaking.

The rest of the lunch box (a stainless steel container from LunchBots) is packed with raw sugar snap peas, a little lettuce, and a bloody dipping sauce.

Lunch is usually a lot less exciting around here!

Monday, October 24, 2011

New to My TBR Pile

While on our beach vacation, my family spent a bit of time in a wonderful independent bookstore just steps from the ocean: Browseabout Books. The store is large--full of souvenir/giftshop stuff on one side, but on the other a much larger selection of books than I expected from a beach bookstore.

I sat for a few minutes reading the introduction to the Penguin edition of Charlotte Bronte's Villette--a novel I have not yet read but now have on my nightstand. Since I had been thinking about Bronte all weekend, this novel seemed like a must-read.  Although Browseabout did not seem to have the Modern Library Villette, I'm eager to read A.S. Byatt's introduction to the novel in that edition. 

I then stumbled across a new edition of the plays of Sophocles, translated by Robert Bagg and James Scully.

Although I carried Bagg and Scully out of the bookstore before I have poked into it thoroughly, I'm thrilled to see that Christopher, who blogs over at ProSe, is quite pleased with this translation. After braving a bit of carsickness to have a peak at it on the way home from the beach, it looks fantastic.  (Have any of the rest of you looked at it yet?)

Incidentally, Christopher's blog was one of the first book blogs I found when I started searching for people who were committed to reading classic literature. I immediately loved the way he combined deep analysis of what he read with a discussion of his personal and emotional responses. (His passion for Thomas Hardy led me to read a little bit of that author before I started my project.) Then Christopher got busy and he took a bit of a blogging break. Then I did. Recently he's left some really thoughtful comments on some old posts here at the Lifetime Reading Plan. They've helped convince me that it is time for me to come back to the blog and begin to write about what I'm reading again--more frequently than once every week, or two...or three.

In one of those comments, Christopher let me know that Stephen Mitchell planned to release his own translation of Homer's The Iliad. Lucy Pollard-Gott, author of the fabulous Fictional 100: Ranking the Most Influential Characters in World Literature and Legend, was also kind enough to steer me towards this new translation.  Thank you both so much!

I'm so excited to read this edition!  Homer's The Iliad completely caught my imagination in a way I never expected, and I also adored Stephen Mitchell's introduction to the Gilgamesh epic. But before I allow myself to dive in (perhaps in early January?), I'm planning to complete some other reading projects--from some Greek drama to a couple of Victorian novels and even to a bit of 21st-century experimental poetry.  Stay tuned.

*  *  *

As much as fiction calls to me, there are times in my life when nonfiction takes over almost completely. I'm about halfway through Richard Heinberg's The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality about the current global economic and environmental crises. It is not an easy read--intellectually or emotionally--but it is both important and thoughtful. Some of Heinberg's writing (perhaps especially his Powerdown about possible responses to resource depletion such as Peak Oil) is really quite lyrical as well.

I'm also loving the work of Bill McKibben. Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future (about the links between social structure, environmental destruction, and resource depletion) is a wonderful place to start--although I first discovered McKibben's writings back in 1999 or so when I read his Maybe One: A Case for Smaller Families right as my son was born.  I read it because I wanted to convince my partner David that we should have only one child--a decision I made for myself when I was eight years old.  I finished McKibben's memoir/study with a much deeper sense that my personal choices mattered.  Whether or not you agree with McKibben's specific argument about having smaller families really doesn't matter.  The book gently but forcefully calls us to live up to our ideals and think about our responsibilities to the world.  It was a life-changing book for me.

Like Heinberg, McKibben combines the skills of a visionary thinker with those of a careful and inspired writer.  Both require a great deal of attention, and both will leave you thinking for months.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Doctors without Borders

My husband (a physician) and I (a historian with a PhD) were eager to pick out books to enjoy on our recent beach weekend.  Although I certainly appreciate the independent bookstores in our area--especially the marvelous Politics and Prose--I must say that as a non-driver, I was a bit addicted to the chain bookstore within walking distance of our house.  And this time, due to big work projects that each of us were engaged in before our little vacation, David and I were both rushing around like mad as we packed.  A quick bookstore run was really all we had time for.  Alas:

Friday, October 21, 2011


My family recently spent a lovely weekend along the Delaware shore.  It was a weekend of reconnection after an especially busy few weeks, full of reading and writing and thinking, and full of lots of really fantastic beer at our favorite brewpub.

For several years now, we've had the very unorthodox tradition of spending part of the Jewish high holidays at the beach.  Although our commemoration of the holidays is not religious, we are still moved by the personal reflection these holidays encourage. 

One of the central metaphors of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the idea of turning--the turning of one year into the next, the turning away from our pasts and into what we can make of our future, and the turning to our highest selves.  David and I chose to focus on this idea during one of our beach days, following the traditional religious practice of offering our apologies and our forgiveness to each other--for hurts we knew about as well as hurts of which we were unaware.  We exchanged vows to help each other become our highest selves, but also to be patient with each other as we stumble toward those goals.

titania at beach front
Photography by our son; Sweater knitted by me!

* * *

When I think about how two people try to balance personal reflection, sometimes-conflicting moralities, and a deep commitment to each other, I can't help but think of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. I read the novel for the first time when I was just about the age of our 12yo son. I was deeply moved by the shy and plain Jane who fought her passionate self in order to do what she felt was right, no matter what others thought of her. So much of my personality--a shy but bull-headed woman who is definitely overly moralistic, fiercely outspoken with the people she loves most, and usually non-confrontational and polite to strangers--is a mirror image of what I saw in Jane Eyre. I have no idea if I loved the novel because I saw in Jane much of what I saw in myself, or if I loved the book so much that I made myself in Jane's image.

My husband did me the very great honor of reading Jane Eyre this year (after resisting my almost constant badgering for almost twenty years). He loved it--and saw much in it that I had not seen in my many, many rereadings. I've loved getting to talk more about this book I have loved so deeply for so many years. I'm eager to read it again soon.

My son, meanwhile, is currently gobbling up The Eyre Affair and its sequels. I am thrilled to hear him laughing aloud at the literary jokes!

* * *

In the evenings at the beach, the three of us watched my favorite film version of Jane Eyre: the BBC miniseries starring actress Ruth Wilson. (My husband knows Wilson from her current role on our beloved mystery series Luther. If you don't know the series and have Netflix streaming, go watch season one right now. Or check it out: you'll appreciate the captions.)

Although both my son and my partner enjoyed the miniseries, I think David was pretty disappointed with some of the changes it made from the book. I love Wilson as Jane Eyre. And I adore Toby Steven's Rochester--both unpleasant and completely loveable. (Personally, I don't see what Jane sees in Rochester in the Mia Wasikowska version--although I do like Judi Dench as Jane Fairfax.)

Somehow, I think all of our thoughts about turning should not really be leading us to think about the turning of books into movies...

*  *  *

In the next couple of posts, I'll talk a bit about the books we brought along and what I am making of my current reading.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Banned Books

This weekend was our local library's second annual celebration of banned books.  While librarians projected illustrations from books onto large screens, people from the community read aloud from classic children's stories. 

One gentleman read from a version of "Little Red Riding Hood" challenged because Red was taking alcohol (a bottle of good red wine) to her grandmother.  One woman did a dramatic reading of a scene from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe--an explicitly Christian-themed book--challenged because of its discussions of mysticism.  Our state senator read from one of my very favorite books from childhood, Norton Jester's The Phantom Tollbooth--which was effectively banned when a librarian in Boulder, Colorado took it off the shelves and stored it in the locked reference collection because the librarian deemed it "poor fantasy."

Many people read picture books--some of which I knew and some which were new to me.  Have any of you seen William Steig's book The Amazing Bone?  The story is utterly random, hysterically charming, and very sweet.  A parent wished to have it excised from public libraries because it features the use of tobacco by animals.

Although most of the readers were adults this year, three young people read as well.  One girl read a favorite scene from Harry Potter and shared her undying passion for the whole series.  Another read from Elizabeth Speare's Sign of the Beaver, a 1984 Newberry Honor book challenged because of its use of the word squaw to refer to an American Indian woman.  My 12yo son read from Katherine Paterson's gorgeous Bridge to Terabithia, a book which has been challenged many times in many places for many reasons.  The section my son read tells what happens when a nonreligious girl goes to church with her friend.  The scene is gently written, extremely respectful of belief and non-belief, but also deeply probing.

The Banned Books Reading was a joyful celebration.  People rolled their eyes at some of the reasons books have been challenged.  In other cases we realized how much fear there is of beliefs and questions different from our own.  I've never heard of this kind of commemoration before but am sure it must be done elsewhere as well.  Does your town or library acknowledge Banned Books Week?  How do you celebrate?

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Path Full of Brambles

Ever read books not assigned to you in class? Write about them on your blog? Or maybe read about books on other people's blogs? If so (and of course it is so, since you are reading this book review), consider yourself officially gifted.

A Parent's Guide to Gifted Teens: Living with Intense and Creative AdolescentsLisa Rivero is one of my homeschooling gurus. Her early book, Creative Home Schooling: A Resource Guide for Smart Families, is full of ideas and insights which have shaped my family's experiences as my son has grown from a brilliant and kind small boy into a brilliant and (mostly) kind young man. Her newest book, A Parent's Guide to Gifted Teens: Living with Intense and Creative Adolescents, is not about homeschooling per se.  Instead, Rivero attempts in her newest book to help parents deal with the difficulties that their gifted children may present to them.

I wrote a post not that long ago about the books I read in preparation for my son's upcoming homeschooling year--and I want to assure those of you who have absolutely no interest in this subject that I have no intention of letting this blog become a homeschooling blog.*

I hesitate to use the word "gifted" at all since it has such negative meanings in popular culture. It sounds like bragging.  Many of us who love learning (pretty much one of the definitions of gifted) have been taught not to brag about what comes to us more from the combination of good genes and good opportunities than from personal hard work.  Many people believe the word "gifted" is a label only adopted by people who want to set themselves off as better than others.  But that is not at all the truth which Rivero is trying to talk about.

What I love most about Rivero's work is her exploration of the way that giftedness is no sign of superiority.  Instead, it is a sign of difference, of weirdness, even (at least in experience) of abnormality: "I have heard more than one parent complain that it is tempting to say that his child suffers from giftedness rather than he is gifted.  Maybe this helps to explain how hard it can be, for both child and parent.  People who insist that being gifted is a walk in the park don't understand that the park, while beautiful and extensive, is also wild, often pathless, and filled with brambles."

The "unpath" through the brambles of the park can lead us through that darkness and into a place of growth.  That is exactly what I am learning--through the experience of homeschooling a gifted child, as well as through this project and its accompanying blog.  Summer has been a time when I've let go of the practice of both, to some degree.  Now--as the Jewish High Holidays come and autumn starts to seem real--is our time to reenter growth: mine, my son's, and the growth we do together.

*If you found this post because of your interest in homeschooling, or if you are fascinated by the experience of having a gifted student at home full time, you might be interested in checking out my 12yo son's blog about his experiences growing up homeschooling: The Education of a Young Man.  As of now, he posts extremely irregularly.  Learning to write is one of his educational goals this year, so things may pick up.
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