Sundays are a ruler of life. Ruler, as in, measurement.
Once upon a time, Sundays were lazy; sleep till all hours, read a book, go for a run, go for brunch. Then they became like any other day; up at six, nodding off on the couch in front of The Magic School Bus. When I worked full time, I stumbled through Sundays on stun, recovering from the week, doing bits of work, running errands, going to basketball/hockey, prepping for the days ahead.
During my PhD, Sundays lost their identities altogether, slipping into Saturday and Monday, unnoticed. If Sundays replaced my grown-up children, I was a terrible new mother. I ignored them, was incapable of telling them apart from their siblings. Every day was reading, writing, work, eat, work. Reading, writing, work, eat, work.
And then one day (a Monday, as far as I can recall) I defended my candidacy papers. And my seven adopted children resolved themselves into days with unique faces. Work, prep, research, work, research, errands, relax. And when I say relax, I really mean, slip into a coma. Which is what I wanted to do every day, post candidacy exam.
But now the post-candidacy term is at an end and Sundays are growing on me. This morning I read Russell Smith in The Globe and had a pleasant, out-of-focus sensation.
At the risk of over-selling my Sunday as gloriously duty-free, I should mention that The Globe is my favorite way of procrastinating. Today I’m putting off writing a paper for the upcoming Congress conference.
But never mind.
The point is, I had a pleasant, out-of-focus sensation as I read a Russell Smith column – “In an age of endless images, kids are still hooked on books.” I expected a column punctuated with stats. Stats on reading versus gaming, reading versus film, reading versus The Magic School Bus.
This was Russell Smith lounging on his couch, laptop propped on thighs, coffee in one hand, one eye on The Magic School Bus, contemplating the reading acts that inhabit his own home. His own memories of reading, his bedtime readings to his son, his son’s responses to Pippy Longstocking. The only stat in the column was the news that Smith’s son memorizes every character in every Star Wars film ever made.
Should I be indignant about this? The headline does, after all, promise a sweeping analysis of how today’s children respond to written texts versus image-based narratives. What about false advertising? What about facts supporting assumptions? What about being qualified to analyze the topic at hand?
Sundays don’t have to be about stats and analysis and comprehensive comparisons based on literary theory.Do they?
In my pleasant Sunday state of out-of-focusness, I drift to New Brunswick. A conference I attended a couple of years ago at Mount Allison, about women as public intellectuals. I drift to a panel discussion and a debate about why women don’t speak in the public arena as often as men do.
(Preposterous! shout the post-feminists. Who says women’s voices are still silent?)
Shari Graydon, that’s who. At the Discourse & Dynamics conference she talked about women refusing to think of themselves as experts. She said that when women are called by journalists to comment on a topic, they often decline, saying, “Oh, you should really talk to Mr. X; he’s been studying this longer than I have.”
What is this fear women have about putting pen to paper and analyzing the topics they know and understand? Would a woman have more trouble than Russell Smith writing a Sunday column about kids and reading? Granted, someone else may have written Russell’s misleading headline. And granted, the Globe and other media outlets are full of savvy women who stick their necks out every day to debate myriad topics. But it’s Shari Graydon’s experience that many of the female gender still hesitate to take on the mantle of expert, even when they are experts in their field.
But since it’s Sunday, I drift away from Shari Graydon and back to Russell Smith. Is this column a valid way of throwing the issue of childhood reading out into the public domain? His article is highly personal, domestic. Readable. So why not? He could certainly have written the stat-based article, but the first-person approach has its own merits. Kind of like a blog post.
And it reminds me that knowledgeable people can – and should – write about their opinions. Even when they spring up, slightly out of focus, on a Sunday.