Friday, February 3, 2012

Imagination Verses Reality

(Hide Away by Ana Mouyis printed in Annalemma Issue 8: Creation.)

My friend, Kim, came to visit me in December, and she brought with her a copy of Annalemma Magazine. Last minute, before she left, she said she'd loan it to me, and I read it, which felt good because prior to reading it I was mainly reading textbooks, and my student's final papers. God. I coveted that journal. I took it with me on the train, kept it in my purse, pulled it out to read bits in between things. It was like I re-discovered reading literary work.

Blake Butler has an essay in my coveted literary magazine, "I Tried Really Hard to Play." I fell deep in love with the essay and with the accompanying drawings by Anastasia Mouyis. Butler's essay contains a strange kind of depth (nearly cabalistic). This particular issue of Annalemma has a theme of creation, and Butler explores ideas of creation through role playing games.

This semester I am teaching an intermediate level writing class, and after reading Butler's essay I decided to make the classes' focus arguments in the media. I assigned Butler's essay for homework on Wednesday night and bright and early this morning we had a discussion. What we came up with: Butler creates a layer of settings-- the beach, the condo, and the world of his imagination, and in these settings we can find common themes of fear, solitude, a need for discovery. The memories he gives us are much like the drawings he makes as a child: pieces of something incomplete, a way of discovery. Butler approaches big ideas here: it's hard to create when we are still trying to figure out reality. Coming of age is a strange process and it never really goes away.

One of my classes' essay options is to write about role playing games, and how they might affect a society, the world, an individual, and the problem solving skills related to them. I will encourage them to use Butler's essay as a source, and I am already looking forward to their responses.

(I also decided to use Butler's essay as a model for a narrative essay in EN 101 class, and while the focus of the discussion was different, the students had a lot to say about role playing games, solitude, and identity.)

Sooo thank you, Mr. Butler for writing good words. And thank you, Kim, for always putting good words and inspiration in my life!

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