A funny thing happened when I was reading this book.
What does this heading say?
I somehow read that as EVIL COMPANIONS. Because the ‘X’ looks like an ‘E’ and the period next to the ‘I’ makes the ‘I’ look like an ‘L’.
One reason why I think I was so ready to read ‘I.’ as an ‘L’ is that the print quality of the whole book was not so good, and letters or parts of letters were often missing. My eyes had gotten used to filling in ‘missing’ parts, and filled in an ‘L’ where there actually wasn’t one.
Reminds me of the time I misread ‘China Unicom’ as ‘China Unicorn’ early on when I was working for China Knowledge.
Life and Death in Shanghai is an amazing book about an amazing woman. The tone in which she tells her own story is deadpan, but the events are extremely dramatic. If you’ve never read about the Cultural Revolution, it’s eye-opening.
Some of my memories of the book are:
how Nien Cheng’s private home was turned into living quarters for several families, and regular household routines were disrupted by food rationing;
how when destructive Red Guards came knocking, Nien Cheng tried to preserve, and in only some cases succeeded in preserving, some antiques she had in her house, by relinquishing them to be stored in government museums;
and how after she was arrested, she had to live in a freezing concrete cell, where her food was insufficient and her clothing was insufficiently warm, yet she maintained exquisite poise and self-assurance.
A few passages from the book are reproduced below.
Why Johnny Can’t Read is a rant, but the rant is justified if the ‘whole-word’ method was as dominant as the author, Rudolf Flesch, claims.
How infuriating that someone assumed, and led a whole country to assume, that because adult readers take in whole words in a glimpse when reading that that was how reading should be taught to children, rather than by sounding out the letters and letter combinations.
Flesch proposes that parents teach their kids at home using a phonetic system very much like the one I’m teaching now.
A few weeks ago I was looking for a book on my language shelves. I noticed a book called A Study of Writing by I. J. Gelb. Separated from it by two or three books was another book (of a slightly different age and color, but identical size) called A Study of Writing by I. J. Gelb.
I had never before noticed that there were two copies of that book, not even when I arranged the language book shelves roughly by topic.
My immediate response was to remove the older copy. And to then insert it next to its duplicate on the shelf.
I enjoyed The Rational Optimist. Pessimism is more attention-getting than optimism, but sometimes we need calm, happy stuff.
No charity ever raised money for its cause by saying things are getting better. No journalist ever got the front page by telling his editor that he wanted to write a story about how disaster was now less likely. Good news is no news. (295)
Ridley is a welcome candle in the dark. Hear more about what he has to say below.