The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping our children thrive
when the world overwhelms them by Elaine Aron. After
Delphine decided she hated music class because the leader was too
loud, a friend recommended I read this book. It is about the
15 to 20 percent of children who are apparently highly sensitive,
and how to parent them effectively without making them miserable.
So is Delphine highly sensitive? Kind of... she's unusually sensitive
to noises, and to the emotional state of others. Combine the two and
logically you could determine that she is very sensitive to
noisy expressions of emotion, as we saw at the music class and
as Baba's friend Ann found out. (She had cause to gasp loudly in
surprise in Delphine's presence once; Delphine cried
a lot, and ever since then Delphine has periodically mentioned,
"Ann shouted, and then I cried. Why did Ann shout?")
It does make her easy to discipline by shouting at her, but I'm
not a big proponent of the "Discipline by Scaring the Shit out of
your Child" method, so I try to avoid it. (Easier said than done,
since shouting is what I do when I'm angry, and getting angry is
what I do when I'm depressed, and depressed is what I get alarmingly
easily, it seems. More about that later, though.)
Delphine's not sensitive to other things that the book discusses
though; she doesn't care if her food touches, and she isn't bothered
by tags on clothing or seams on socks or tactile annoyances of
that nature. Thank goodness, because it seems like it would be
irritating to have to work around those kinds of sensitivities.
I am quite sympathetic to Delphine's sensitivities because I think
I share them (I will read the adult version of the book sometime
and see) and so I can quite easily understand her and figure out
what is going to upset her, especially now that I have read this
book and know what patterns and situations to watch for.
I wouldn't read this book if you don't think you have a sensitive
child, because that would be borrowing trouble — if you don't
have to worry about this stuff I would strongly recommend you
don't. But if you think your child might be sensitive, or seems
to react disproportionately to certain situations, this book is
probably worth a look.
Vices of My Blood by Maureen Jennings
is a murder mystery set in Victorian Toronto, which is just
brilliant. I love getting a picture of what Toronto was like in
the past, and Jennings does a great job painting that picture.
The characters are appealing and the mystery was good; what more
can you ask?
How To Read Literature Like A Professor: A Lively
and Entertaining Guide To Reading Between The Lines by
Thomas C. Foster. I am frankly a little pissed off that
I haven't read this book before. I have been hinting around needing
a book like this for ages — when I read How To Read and
Why by Harold Bloom, I thought it really failed to discuss
the How part. This book does.
The book is a high-level discussion of the symbolism found in
literature: every trip is a quest; eating is always significant,
usually of communion or trust among the eaters;
weather is usually about something other than weather; and so on.
Foster also discusses sonnets, and briefly (one chapter each)
touches on Shakespeare, the Bible, Children's Literature, and mythology
(mainly Greek) as precursors or fodder for allusions or roots or
— there must be a word for this but I can't think of it —
anyway, stuff that writers allude or refer to in order
to enrich their text. Foster discusses intentionality (did the
author really mean that to be a symbol/allusion/pattern? Answer: yes.)
and irony, and then caps the whole thing off with a short story
to practice your newfound skills on.
I love this book. I might buy a copy. It makes me wish I had read
it before I read Cat's Eye because I am sure I missed a
whole lot in that book by just reading for plot. But I have the
rest of my life to try and read more deeply.
It made me think, though. First, reading like a professor seems like
a lot of work; you have to keep track of symbols, you have to look
for patterns, you have to try and figure out where you have seen this
story or this character before, you are always looking for the next
layer or layers of meaning below the simple action and dialogue in
the story. And is it worth it? Do you really get that much more
out of the book? I guess you do, or else no-one would bother.
And then, after you have been doing that for a few years and get
good at it and do it automatically, mustn't it be horribly
disappointing when you pick up a normal book, a potboiler someone
left at the cottage or something, and you keep trying to find
depths of meaning that just aren't there?
Like when you are used
to watching Buffy and Firefly, and you watch
a regular show and you realize that the enticing hints being
dropped will never be picked up on, that the characters really
are as one-dimentional as they seem, that the really obvious
foreshadowing is actually just plain foreshadowing and not the clever
misdirect you assumed it would be.
It must be like when you
drink Manischewitz kosher wine and at first it tastes like
sweet grape juice and you are waiting for the hit of spiciness
or mellowness or depth that you would get if it were a good
wine, like maybe ice wine... but instead it just turns sour
And another thing. The short story he gives as an example to
practice on. It's a lovely story and being the simple-minded
lass I am, I enjoyed it for the characters and the plot and
the setting. Then I re-read it and tried to find the symbolism
and allusions and the meaning, and I came up with a couple of
pretty good insights. Then I read the professor's interpretation,
and as it turns out the end of the story is a big huge,
kind-of-obvious reference to Persephone's journey into Hades which
I entirely missed, not surprisingly because I know
nothing about Greek mythology (although Foster did helpfully
present the myth earlier in the book, so I can't entirely
But now I have this idea that reading
like a professor is like solving a riddle, and that in this
case I have failed. I know that isn't entirely true;
I'm sure that having been able to see that allusion contributes
to one's appreciation of the story and therefore it is valuable,
but I enjoyed the story for what I got out of it without making
that connection. But I can't help but feel like I got it wrong,
somehow, and that I have to "solve" each piece of literature as
if it were a mathematical problem.
Thus I conjure up an image of myself poring through heaps
of classics trying to figure out the hidden meaning, and triumphantly
snapping each one closed and setting it aside as I "decode" it.
"Figured out that one! Next!" Which I am sure is not the point.