In March, Waring’s Writing Department announced a weekly community writing project.
Every Monday, the Writing Department shares a new prompt and publishes some of the previous week’s best responses.
Last week the prompt was: Over the past few weeks, countless media outlets have offered lists of books to read, movies to watch, TV series to pick up, and music to listen to while we’re spending more time at home than ever before. Last month, Waring’s own Health Newsletter offered book recommendations from faculty and staff. The Writing Department would like to hear what you’re reading, watching, and listening to. What has been the most absorbing book you’ve read? The most escapist TV series? The most soothing music? Please write us a review of the most meaningful piece of cultural production you’ve consumed in the past month. Make sure to give us enough crunchy details to make us want to give it a try, and tell us why it’s been a life-saver for you. If we get enough responses, we’ll print a list of Waring Community Recommendations in next week’s newsletter. Oh, and we respectfully request: No “Tiger King.” We think we’ve heard enough about that already.
At the bottom of this blogpost, you will find this week’s new prompt. Everyone is encouraged to participate alongside our students. Please submit your responses (no more than 250 words) to Jill Sullivan (email@example.com) by Friday.
Below are five of our favorite responses from last week. Click the following links to read the best of Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and Week 4.
Thomas Davis ’23
I stand, far above the treeline, near the peak of a mountain. The snow that falls above me compresses with a shallow crunch as I tread on it. Night comes upon the mountain. The tracks I leave are soon covered by a fresh blanket of heavenly whiteness, as I begin my descent. The snow becomes lighter, as I climb down. Eventually, the snow has ceased, and I have reached a forest. I begin my walk home. I step on the firm cobbled path that leads me through the wood. My boots clack against the stones as I walk. Finally, I reach the sea. The morning sun is shy as it peeks its head over the water. I stand for a moment, watching rays of gold and amber twinkle across the smooth canvas of ocean. I feel a sense of serenity, as I shut my front door behind me. After my long journey, I have returned home.
Despite having ventured hundreds of miles over the course of weeks, I am not tired. Clicking the left mouse button and holding the w key on my keyboard is not exactly fatiguing. I have traveled so far, and yet I’m quarantined in my house, only leaving for the occasional run. Such is the escapist nature of Minecraft that makes it so appealing. The world of Minecraft is infinite, and has no boundaries, so it’s incredibly stimulating to engage with. At a time when I feel so inundated with boundaries, I play Minecraft to escape them.
Beatrix Karambis ’22
A Woman in Berlin
She describes herself as a pale blonde nobody. Maybe that's because she has just come out of a war. Typically I am more the strong brunette author type. I suppose it's silly to say that writing style has a connection to hair color but I can say with great confidence that almost all of my favorite authors have dark hair. Somehow though, it makes sense that she should be pale and blonde. If she were to have brown curls like the woman on the cover I think that I should read the book without seeing the author of who she really is. In the other 20th century memoirs I have read, although memoirs, they were published with great humility after the war under their proper names. This one remains anonymous and it fits that she should have a different hair color. I am glad also that her pale blond hair is the only physical feature she describes. That way I see her actions as if I am following her from behind. She never turns around and so I am forced to leave her face a blank in my head and focus instead on the destruction of her surroundings. The fall of Berlin in the last six weeks of the war. I think she is the first German memoir I have read. The book is shockingly detailed and although it lasts only two months, from April 20 - June 22, 1945, it feels like a lifetime. I read that, at the time of its publication, it is was absolutely scandalous because of all the rape. However, it is now not so hard to find a copy and she really doesn't go into much detail. Because she’s the only German who speaks a bit of Russian among them, the young officers are drawn to her. To her, the Russians are not a demonic force of brutes but really just a lot of young boys, taken advantage of with interesting little cultural differences. Russians don't look for women in crawl spaces because they don't have those back there. She describes burning Nazi litterature to build up their fires and how soon Mein Kampf will be a rare commodity. So many little details that paint such a vivid description of the birth and death of Germany.
Rowan Malatesta ’22
I genuinely really enjoy garbage television. I’m not talking about reality TV, though The Circle and Love Island are great. I’m talking specifically about Riverdale. The amount it strays from its source material is absolutely baffling and the most I’ve interacted with Archie Comics is maybe picking up an issue in a shop because I liked the cover design. Let’s play a game called “Did This Happen on Riverdale?” The rules are simple: just answer yes or no about what you think is actually apart of Riverdale (watch out for slight spoilers):
- Jughead gets chased through the woods by a bunch of 10-year-olds with pointed sticks who were obsessed with an evil version of Dungeons and Dragons.
- Kevin joins a cult and gets some of his organs harvested.
- A couple of teenagers create a speakeasy and manage to keep it open by running a casino night for all the local teenagers.
- Archie gets attacked by a bear while hiding from a known mobster.
And now for results: if you answered yes to all, congratulations! You’ve won! All of those take place in season 3 of Riverdale but don’t worry. From what I’ve seen, season 4 gets even more crazy and outlandish. That is what I enjoy so much about the show. Objectively, looking at it with any degree of critical thinking, Riverdale is bad. The pacing of the show is bizarre. The first season of the show limits this issue by being 13 episodes long, but the later seasons are so long that sometimes in the middle of the season seems to completely forget what story it’s trying to tell. There are so many other issues, such as the way Cheryl and Veronica don’t talk like actual people. But, that’s what’s fun about it. It’s so bad. It makes it so funny and enjoyable and fun.
Yaqi Liu ’22
My mom recommended this TV series a long long time ago when I was still in middle school. At that time, I thought it was so boring, maybe I just totally didn't understand it at all. However, it is not the case now. It gradually became one of my favorite shows in the world. It is called Downton Abbey.
The first time I ever heard of this series was when I was on spring vacation four years ago. I started from season three and accidentally found out who died. What a bummer! Soon I found myself totally not understanding what was going on due to the language and that I skipped the previous seasons.
At the beginning of the spring break this year, I started to watch the Downtown Abbey movie and I found this treasure. I decided to watch the TV series, after the second episode, I just couldn’t stop watching it because it is so amazing. I literally love the setting of every character because they all got their unique characteristics. There are no stereotypical “bad people” or totally “good people”. But it is more like reality. Moreover, at the ending of every episode there is always a heartwarming scene and I love them so much.
Kerry Pound (Current Parent)
Family Lockdown Reading
During the first few minutes after learning of the lockdown, I thought to myself, “This is amazing! I’ll never have this much time again to read!” Almost giddy with expectation – I eagerly imagined hours of now-unscheduled time during which I’d have almost infinite options of when and what to read. Then, reality set in… i.e., parenthood. Our four children, particularly the 6 and 8 year old boys, weren’t likely to allow my lounging on our couch all day reading -- even if every academic, sporting, and extra-curricular activity was cancelled and their world was opened to total imaginative create-your-own adventure possibilities – with a rather permissive, slightly distracted mother who was able to suture or glue most lacerations from the comfort of home. (Frankly, the present circumstances would almost have been childhood paradise to me!) I desperately entreated the weather to cooperate with my plans and inspire their outdoor play for approximately ten hours per day! Somehow, the children didn’t view quarantining as an opportunity to become one with nature – foraging, building outdoor shelters, maybe even training a falcon -- even though we had all listened to My Side of the Mountain the week prior to quarantine. Instead, all four quickly decided that bickering, merciless teasing, and physical competitions that usually ended in tears were the ways forward. Plans thwarted, I quickly resumed my regular maternal role as referee. Alas, lockdown dreams crushed…almost as quickly as they had materialized.
And so began my planning alternate ways to ensure protected reading time. As now default “principal” of our domestic school, I decided to institute a mandatory schedule which included one hour of daily reading for all. If nothing else, it was an excuse to have relative quiet for an hour while the older two read and the younger two at least looked at books…or accepted the need to remain without physical contact during this time. (Perhaps a more selfless mother would have read aloud each day for this hour of enforced truce, but, honestly, I just needed the time to gather emotional strength to return to refereeing shortly thereafter!) With my reading time secured, I could now peruse the shelves and begin to choose my first book.
Classic Dickens (i.e., dense, engaging), highly recommended, and never before read by me – David Copperfield – was my first endeavor. This book is a favorite of Lovelace Howard (Gallaudet’s mother), and she had recently once again recommended it to me during a pre-COVID-19 visit with her. It had also been mentioned several times in A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken, which I had finished just prior to quarantine. Given those high level endorsements, I jumped in -- and I was not to be disappointed! The novel is told in the first person (and is likely a partially autobiographical work of Dickens) beginning with the birth of David Copperfield and continuing through much of his life. The characters are rich and endearing and, as with all Dickens, there are moments of great misery and heartache as well as instances of sweet joy and fulfillment. It was delightful to read, and I eagerly awaited the precious daily reading hour as I craved to find out what would happen with David and his beloved Agnes.
Following on the success of completing this novel, I ventured into The Brothers Karamazov, which has long been on my list of must-reads but persists in being very challenging to penetrate. I have begun the book on at least four separate occasions in the past, but have never gotten past the first rounds of encountering three or four nicknames for each of the main characters, and thereby getting completely lost in who was who or who was doing or saying what. I am happy to report that approximately eighteen months ago, I became the proud holder of one of Tom Howard’s copies of the book which includes his brilliant marginalia. (Clearly, Gallaudet possesses an advantage in reading advice -- and options -- given her parentage!) Tom, with a vision to actually complete, and perhaps teach, this Russian novel, steadfastly kept track of every character speaking and being spoken of by noting their official name in the margin. What a gift! Finally, I am well into the story, although sadly not yet able to report if it will live up to its reputation.
Perhaps due to chronic, underlying anxiety of this strange time, I have found that I am much less able to read non-fiction. The C.S. Lewis reading group I founded five years ago chose to read Miracles and meet by ZOOM video conference to discuss. Typically, I think Lewis’ philosophy enjoyable and easy to follow; however, during these last few weeks, I’ve found it heavy and burdensome. Interestingly, so did the rest of our group. In the five years that we have been together reading all Lewis has written -- as well as anything by Lewis’ friends (Tolkien, Sayers, and others) or his influences (George MacDonald, G.K. Chesterton and others ) or “influencees” (Vanauken, Kreeft, Howard, and others), we’ve never abandoned a book. But we did during quarantine. Since none of us could commit to reading Miracles, we made a switch to something much lighter: a novel by one of Lewis’ favorite authors of childhood, E. Nesbit. We are all reading Five Children and It, and enjoying the delightful Psammead along with Nesbit’s acerbic sense of humor. What a great alternative to real life right now! E. Nesbit is a treasure of British literature and was a favorite of Lewis and Rowling and others who followed her in children’s literature. A Perfect Escape.
I can’t seem to write a detailed recommendation on a particular book, but I can highly recommend protected family reading time. This time of quiet has allowed each of us to delve into some excellent books – at our own level and which uniquely interest us. Charlie (Waring ’24) has read Unbreakable, Night, The Boys in the Boat, and The Lord of the Rings; Amelia (12) has read The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, All the Light We Cannot See, Silas Mariner, and Pride and Prejudice. William (8), who is still mourning after finishing the Harry Potter series, has found the Will Wilder series and has started to read some classics as well. And, most excitingly, Francis (6), has learned to read during this time off and together! He eagerly reads to his father most nights what we have practiced earlier during the day – now up to a 16 (16!) page book. Each of us have benefitted from the protected time to explore literature and live at least for that hour in another (COVID-19-free) world. Thank God for literature!
Community Writing Prompt - Week of May 4, 2020
Over the past few weeks, the Writing Department has solicited prompt ideas from across the Waring Community, and one prompt idea shows up more than all the rest: What do you miss? So this week, tell us the story of what you miss the most about the life you were leading before the lockdown. We will have many general categories in common: family gatherings, restaurant meals, in-person seminars. So, be as specific as you can and paint us a picture of what you most yearn for.