Saturday, January 24, 2015

Can't We Please Talk About Something More Pleasant?

I think I know my son's tastes pretty well, but I was utterly surprised by the book he's currently obsessed with: Roz Chast's memoir "Can't We Please Talk About Something More Pleasant?"  I don't think this was intended for a 10-year-old. It's an account told mostly through drawings of the last years of her parents' lives and of Chast's own efforts to care for them, clean out their apartment, move them to a care facility, etc.

N. had read an excerpt in the New Yorker and begged to get a copy of the book.  I can't really explain why he likes it so much and I have to wait my turn to read it!  But I think he likes the tragicomic tone, and Chast's wry drawings. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Little Help from a Small Bear

The other day we were talking about the new "Annie" movie starring Quvenzhan√© Wallis.  N. told me there's a girl in his ballet class named Annie who looks like the girl who played Annie in a local production of the musical that we saw a couple years ago.  I said, "Maybe they are sisters."  He said, "No, there wouldn't be two girls in one family named Annie."  I looked at him, puzzled, and then he started laughing, realizing his mistake: of course the girl in the play wasn't named Annie, she just played Annie!  

Then N. said, "Take your daughter back!  Take your daughter back!"  I had no idea what he was talking about, didn't even realize at first that he was quoting something, and certainly didn't recognize the quote.  N. said, "Remember when Paddington went backstage?"

Aha!  N. was referring to an episode in "A Visit to the Theatre" in A Bear Called Paddington that we'd read (probably several times) years ago, when Paddington doesn't realize that the people on stage at a play he attends are playing roles.  He goes back stage at the intermission to try to patch things up between the characters.  N.'s momentary mistake about the name of the girl who played Annie immediately reminded him of this moment in the story.  

I love how this conversation reveals unconscious cognition at work.  N. didn't consciously search his memory for something that would help make sense of a funny mistake that he was a little bit embarrassed about.  But the story jumped to the front of his mind through the power of association. Reading (and being read aloud to) gives us access to a wealth of life experiences through which we can understand our own.