Day 354 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and Kim is reading Rocket Boys, a memoir by Homer Hickam, Jr., to avoid reading the next book-club book too soon, lest she forget important details before we discuss it. (Likewise, I am reading other things first, including some wonderful poetry!)
Rocket Boys is part of a trilogy of memoirs, along with The Coalwood Way and Sky of Stone, about growing up in a coal-mining town (Coalwood) in West Virginia. Rocket Boys was made into the film October Sky, and Wikipedia tells me that is 1) an anagram of "rocket boys" and 2) also a phrase from the Sputnik days, when the Russian rocket was announced on radio as being seen in the "October sky." Neato!
Two random coincidii:
1) President Obama just mentioned Sputnik in the State of the Union address. "This is our Sputnik moment." Our wake-up call to re-invent ourselves and improve our education, once again, especially in the areas of science and math. And I think Tiger Mom would be happy to set our alarm clocks!
2) Rocket Boys is also now a musical comedy (who knew?!--Wikipedia, of course, and probably Julie of A Follow Spot), headed from regional theatre to Broadway. Julie, have you run across Rocket Boys in your theatre-going/reporting?!
I visited my mom yesterday, to take her a book (and some plays from Julie), and she had just been reading about Tiger Mom in Time magazine--that is, about the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua--and we discussed theories of childrearing and coaching as they were pertinent in our own American lives, as neither of us has yet read the book. We tend not to voice opinions or judgments about books we haven't read, unlike a lot of Americans!
Anyhoo, so last night I saw Stephen Colbert talk to Amy Chua about it on The Colbert Report, and that was fun. She called the book a "self parody," had a sense of humor, and also said she was "humbled" by her experience as a mom, especially when her second daughter didn't take so well to the strict Chinese parenting style she was using and basically rebelled. Both daughters were in the audience, and Colbert asked, "Are you OK?" He is so funny. (You can see more about Time's coverage and the Colbert episode here, and the whole show at Comedy Central.)
Of course, all this somehow connects to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the musical comedy I saw half of last night. Howard Keel, as Adam, is a redheaded, red-bearded man, with six brothers of similar hairage, until Jane Powell, as Milly, Adam's new bride, makes them all shave. Yes, she's sort of a tiger mom.
I don't think I ever saw this movie before (it was definitely made before I was born), but I had seen clips of some of the famous dancing. And I used to watch Here Come the Brides on tv, which seems clearly based on this movie as well as its civilization-of-Seattle-after-the-Civil-War historical components. Bobby Sherman was in Here Come the Brides! As Jeremy, a character with a charming stammer! Briefly cured by a traveling con artist! (Suddenly both The King's Speech and The Music Man come to mind!)
And here's another interesting connection. Seven Brides was based on a short story by Stephen Vincent Benet, called "The Sobbin' Women," itself based on The Rape of the Sabine Women of Roman legend. Wikipedia assures us that "rape" here means "abduction," as it does in the musical comedy The Fantasticks, but 1) they changed the song called "Rape" when they made the film version of The Fantasticks and 2) whether in Seattle, the generalized American frontier, or ancient Rome, it appears that men feel fine about taking women by force. At least here, as in Paint Your Wagon, there is 1) singing and dancing involved and 2) amazing respect for the woman's wishes after the fact.
But there are also some wonderful accounts in writing and film of women who went west to homestead, answering men's advertisements in search of wives, getting to know each other a bit in letters first, or just taking the big risk. I like the sound of an adventure involving more choice than force, though circumstances can indeed "force" certain choices. Then, of course, there is the "tiger mom" aspect of the Sabine women themselves, who are depicted in this painting by Jacques-Louis David, sometimes called The Intervention of the Sabine Women, as running between the fighting men and making peace.
"You must change your life," said Rilke. So that's what I keep doing. I worked as an actor, wrote for an encyclopedia, edited a literary magazine, shelved and retrieved materials in several libraries, walked beans, and taught college English courses. Now I write & edit as a freelancer, direct plays, blog "eight days a week," study the random, and listen to birdsong.