Sunday, January 12, 2020

Learning to Draw and seeing "like an artist"

I was going to write about how I am "learning to draw," but on second thought I realized the more accurate and important point is "I am drawing." This week I began taking an art class -- probably the first actual art class I have taken since elementary school. And it's been a lot of fun, and it's really cool, and I am happy to be taking a step toward living more artfully. The class is "Abstract Landscape Sketching" at the Curtis Arts Center in Greenwood Village, and the instructor is a fun and rather enthusiastic ("That's brilliant! Really, quite incredible!") artist named Christian Dore.

But that's not all.

The Fine Arts coordinator at my school (who loves to tell us "anyone can draw" and should), told me the first thing you need to do is "get a sketch book" and just start doodling. So, back in November I stopped in Meininger Art Supplies on Broadway and picked out a book. It sat in the basement (my future artist's studio) for over a month before I opened it on January 3 and just started drawing shapes. Of course, like many people, I felt like I didn't really know what or how to draw, so I sought some guidance in a few places. In this day and age, you can find tutorials on nearly anything online; so I did a cursory YouTube search and ran across this guy Branden Shaefer, an acrylic artist, who got me started:

And, I also started checking out books from the library and just started following the step-by-step lessons. Here are a few I have found helpful so far.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain -- Betty Edwards

Drawing for the Utter and Absolute Beginner -- Claire Watson Garcia

You Can Draw in just 30 Minutes - Mark Kistler

Honestly, it's so silly that I felt I didn't know what to draw or how to draw when I grew up drawing all the time. It's like they say: Go in to a kindergarten class and ask how many artists are in the room, and you will see thirty hands in the air. Go into a high school class, and no hands will go up. Or maybe two.

So, if you want to live more artfully, give it a shot.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Can Debate class & school newspapers save "Civics"?

Kids these days.

Like we have for generations, Americans have a pretty dim view of young people and their knowledge of civics and the lack of civic engagement. I don't share the pessimism, though I too can be shocked by how little some kids and teens seem to know or care about government and their community and the issues that should unite and define us.

Being a bit more optimistic, at least in regards to my school and the kids I know, I have occasionally wondered whether classes in speech & debate can save the republic, or at least lessen the caustic divisiveness. I've even considered proposing an article or column about that after I became involved in debate tournaments at my school and was truly stunned by how knowledgeable and insightful some kids could be on national and international issues .... not not mention how fluent and articulate. Now, Natalie Wexler, an education writer and advocate known for her book The Knowledge Gap, has posed that very idea, and I am intrigued by her thoughts.

Certainly, the standard semester of civics or government can generally be seen as inadequate in creating and preparing the "educated electorate," which was envisioned and expected by the likes of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. So, in a interesting piece for, Wexler presented some thoughtful analysis on "civics education," and also posed the idea that perhaps we could meet the challenge of fading print journalism by encouraging high school student publications to pick up the slack by covering local news, specifically around civic issues. She also mentions the role of debate class, which obviously cultivates strong skills in reading, writing, research, speaking, and critical thinking.

I love this idea!

Not sure how it might happen or who can lead the way. But I'm intrigued by the practical application.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Walker Fine Art - Denver

Live artfully.

I embraced an artful experience to celebrate my fiftieth birthday by visiting a few galleries around Denver, which is becoming a true fine arts center and literal playground for the art enthusiasts. One particularly engaging locale worth the visit is Walker Fine Art, " ... a contemporary loft-style gallery, featuring contemporary art." I visited just in time to catch the last few days of the "Layers of Existence" exhibition which was written about so eloquently and insightfully (as always) by Ray Rinaldi, a thoughtful and erudite art writer and critic. If Ray writes about it, I will probably have to visit.

Walker's "exploration of identity and existence" is beautifully curated, and I really love the use of space in this loft. There is much to see and plenty of room to take it in from multiple perspectives. Additionally, the staff was a great help in appreciating the art, and I enjoyed them taking the time to talk about the art, particularly the work of Farida Hughes, whose series "Blends" is featured. These abstract "portraits" are captivating in their own right for the use of color and texture; but to explore the artist's statement and intention with these actual portraits of people is to connect with the art on multiple levels.

The Blends series of paintings serve as a way to explore my own multi-culturalism as a uniquely blended individual, as well as collect and combine stories from other friends and acquaintances. This series began as an experiment to use content as a way into abstraction. The paintings develop from solicited lists of real peoples’ cultural and ethnic backgrounds, as well as the stories that come along with the lists. The blended-ness of people creates interesting identity issues that my “portraits” explore through formal investigation: colors are clean, but layered together they become new shapes, and the paintings develop as I incorporate the parts into harmony. I explore edges where intentions slip and overlap, forming areas of rejection or incorporation, all with shimmering, saturated color and a glass-like surface that leans toward reflection. Each piece is slowly developed in layers, and is as carefully composed as it is considered in light of the individual story from which it originates.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

5-0 ... and Away We Go

I'm a sucker for milestones and landmarks, even though I don't make a big deal out them other than to take notice. So, turning 50 in 2020 is a treat worth acknowledging and relishing. Having recently said final goodbyes to my Mom and Dad, who are truly testaments to "lives well-lived," I can do nothing but cherish the half century I've had to this point. Thus, looking forward to today and tomorrow and days to come is a gift.

Living more artfully is certainly a goal and an opportunity, not only for my fifty-first year but the era of my fifties, the new decade of the '20s, and all the days out in front of me. I envision and imagine the artful life, for the arts are the essence of life. I recently bought a sketch book, have begun doodling from time-to-time, registered for a class on drawing and sketching, try to visit as galleries and shows as often as possible, and regularly seek to learn and understand more about The Arts. 

I also have goals for the one art, that of the written word, that I have cultivated and developed in my first fifty years, and definitely over the past decade. For, currently, my writing practice is not all that I envision it to be, and I'd like to progress and improve and expand it. One plan is to finish developing the website version of A Teacher's View, which has been parked for years. Along with that, after twelve years of blogging and occasionally publishing pieces, some other plans and goals are to increase my fully developed pieces of long-form writing. If I'm doing it effectively, I'd like to end the year with a habit or routine of one long-form piece for this blog or Medium or even a commercial site. 

And, if I am really ambitious, and perhaps a bit overconfident, I'd like to publish (probably independently) a book length manuscript of some of my best or most popular writing over the past decade. It will be the collection of "A Teacher's View," though I will also add in some new pieces, intermittent reflections, lists and collections, perhaps even some artwork. And, I guess I'll just put this out there, my most ambitious goal is to develop and perhaps even find support for the book-length version of this personal essay, "McLife: a Gen Xer Looks Back at Fifty Years."

We'll check back on this post in about 363 days.

Friday, November 29, 2019

EXHIBIT: Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature

The paintings of nineteenth century French Impressionist painter Claude Monet are truly sublime. And if that's the case, then a visit to "Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature" exhibit currently showing at the Denver Art Museum is a necessary pilgrimage for art lovers, or even the curious art novice. It's like going to church, and the devout should not miss it.

I've always known Monet as one of the iconic Impressionist painters, but I don't really think I understood the scope and significance of his career, his vision, his innovation, and his influence until I visited the Denver Art Museum for what is a vast, impressive, and nearly overwhelming exhibition of some of the most incredible paintings in history. The show covers 12 separate galleries featuring roughly 120 paintings which focus on numerous facets of his style and development over a career. And, the really cool thing is the inclusion of 22 pieces from private collections. This exhibit may be the only opportunity to ever see some of these works, such as this fascinating early picture of the harbor in Monet's hometown: "The Port of Le Havre, Night Effect." I am struck by the style, which seems almost abstract at times, and I'm intrigued by the movement he creates with his brush strokes.

The scope of his career simply wows me, as I learned how he sold his first painting at eighteen, after a brief experimentation as a caricaturist. And he painted continuously, almost obsessively, for a career spanning nearly seventy years. He traveled extensively for the purpose of painting the local landscapes and truly pursuing the ability to capture nature -- in fact, his frustration was that light and perspective is ever-changing, and he could never be sure he'd captured the moment. Stunning dedication to craft and vision -- that's Monet. He was a student of painting, as much as he was its master, and his craft and study of color and shifting light took a lifetime to develop. On my visit to the show, I spent nearly three and a half hours exploring the subtle and deeply complex way he layers colors into a scene, such as this image from his time on the Italian coast: "Villas at Bordighera"

We all know the water lilies, of course. And the hay stacks. But I was fascinated with his study of water, both the Seine and the ocean in numerous series and studies he completed over his lifetime. One gallery focuses on the time he spent in one home in the village of Vetheuil, a suburb outside of Paris. It was a refuge for him, and it was a place where he truly began to explore nature, getting away from any urban influence. I was regularly brought in to Monet's focus on reflection and image, especially with the way it plays on water and even snow. The richness of this focus is exquisitely captured in his study: "Vetheuil in Summer"

I could have spent a whole day with Monet and this exhibit, which may be a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience Monet this way. While I've seen numerous Monet paintings in galleries and museums around the world, I cannot fathom another time or place to spend an afternoon with so many masterpieces. It is a beautifully curated show, which honors the career and legacy of one of history's most important artists. Thus, if you're near Denver, or you can travel here sometime in the next couple months, don't miss the chance. This show is only making one stop in North America, and that stop is the Mile High City.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Abstract Colorado +10

“Hey, I could have done that.” Maybe, I think. But you didn’t.

That’s the comment I hear and my internal response whenever someone under-appreciates, or fails to find value in, a piece of abstract art. 

Abstract art and abstract expressionism can be difficult for people not instantly engaged with an artist’s manipulation of color, perspective, depth, dimension and even materials. Yet for someone who may not fully understand or “get” the art of abstraction, but who is open to learning, this weekend provides an opportunity to engage with the best that Colorado has to offer in the world of abstract expressionism. The exhibit “Colorado Abstract +10: a History and Survey” is finishing its run at the Arvada Arts Center on November 17. A sister exhibit at the Kirkland Museum in Denver runs through January 12.

The exhibit was particularly meaningful to me for what it revealed about Colorado’s place in the history of abstract art, and the unique role the state’s geography plays in the lives and creation of the artists. Colorado’s landscapes lend themselves easily to the creation of abstract art. Anyone who has marveled at the breathtaking sunsets over the Rockies or the rich colors coming off the peaks and foothills in the early morning can appreciate an abstract artist’s desire to simply play with color. Whenever I witness the literal “purple mountain majesty,” I feel compelled to capture it with my phone. If I could paint it, I would. The layered colors and textures of the clouds, trees, rocks, and flora are captivating images and moments that are forever shifting in the changing light; the views are an obvious inspiration for artists. 

The “+10” of the exhibition’s title is a reference to the tenth anniversary of the book Colorado Abstract: Paintings & Sculptures by Michael Paglia and Mary Voelz Chandler with an introduction by Hugh Grant, the noted curator for the Kirkland Museum and the Denver Art Museum. For anyone interested in the art form, the book is an open invitation to investigate the history. And the Arvada exhibit has a video series running regularly in the main gallery that frames the genre beautifully. Realistic landscape art is an obvious subject for painters in the Rocky Mountain region, but the transition to abstraction has a clear connection to the rise of the form in America. Starting in the 1930s with the arrival of Vance Kirkland, the city of Denver and the Rocky Mountain region became a compelling location for artists to draw inspiration and create art. It picked up in the fifties when post-WWII found many European abstract artists moving to the United States and eventually heading west as so many immigrants and settlers do. 

Colorado is an abstract place, a locale where light and perspective in the shadow of the Rockies is particularly prominent. Abstract art is about color and shapes and space and impressions. It’s feelings more than images, and the experience of visiting an abstract exhibit, or even just viewing an abstract piece, is a moment of meditation on the ethereal. The iconic abstract artist Mark Rothko believed that his paintings, and art in general, is more than just two-dimensional representations of color. It should be a spiritual or religious experience in which the viewer experiences the painting directly without additional meaning or commentary. For the people and artists of Colorado, the move to abstraction and the connection to landscape art offers an opportunity to understand and connect to that belief.

Truly, abstract art just is. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Essay & Robert Fulghum

Ahh, the essay and the art of writing.

For those of us in the field, we understand the complicated nature of the word essay. It can be such a beautiful art form, yet it is the bane of existence for many a student. It's not their fault - the students or the essays - but the nature of standardizing and institutionalizing practically anything. I've been thinking recently about the negative connotation of that thing I love because I've had to concede to my students in AP English Language the contrived nature of the composition class I teach and the formulaic manner in which I too often ask them to write.

But that's not the point of this post. The art of writing actually is.

Writer Rebecca Renner tweeted this morning a simple request: "If you had to pick one book that has shaped your writing the most, what would it be (This essay is worth 50% of your grade)." It is a great question, especially with the tongue-in-cheek jab at the teaching of rhetoric and composition. And the thread is intriguing for all the diverse influences. Some obvious writing texts like Lamotte's Bird by Bird are contrasted by some epic pieces of fiction such as Catch-22. Obviously those types of books "influence" in distinct and different ways. My response was two-fold, as you can probably expect I'd respond. The op-ed is definitely my genre of choice and specialty, a situation I did not fully realize or pursue until my peer group during the Colorado Writing Project pointed it out to me. To that point, the primary text that has influenced me is actually the columns of three writers: Mike Royko of the Chicago Sun Times & Tribune; George Will of the Washington Post; and David Brooks of the New York Times.

However, if I had to choose one book that influenced, it is a quirky little collection of essays that took the publishing and reading world by storm in 1988. It's All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum.  The book, which he subtitled "Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things," captivated and engaged and entertained me in every way. But more importantly, it taught me to look at "the essay" in an entirely different and positive way. I came to appreciate the art of storytelling as a way of engaging an audience with topics and issues, and I experienced the beauty of narrative in non-fiction. For many years now, I've used Fulghum's book, and his others like it, in my class to great benefit. They are bell starters and writing prompts and digressions and more. I know his book influenced me most because I'm on my second copy, and it too is falling apart from usage. Additionally, I know a piece of writing is special when I wish I had written it. And, I have long thought I want to be Robert Fulghum when I grow up.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Alton, IL: a giant, little river town

I recently began referring to myself more regularly as an "Altonian" after I took a class about race, ethnicity, education, and identity. The inclination was heightened a bit after I spent a bit more time in Littleton and Arvada and Golden, a few foothills towns outside of Denver, where I realized I just felt more at home, or at least nostalgic. Those little communities just seem familiar in a comforting way. And part of those feelings led to a simple bit of travel writing I was trying out. While I couldn't get any publications interested in the feature, I did recently publish the full piece on

Located at the foot of massive limestone bluffs running alongside the ole Miss’, Alton has been home and host to giants of all sorts. Robert Wadlow, at 8 feet 11.5 inches the tallest man to ever live, was known far and wide as “Alton’s Gentle Giant,” and the River City is also the birthplace of jazz legend Miles Davis. Visitors to Alton can appreciate statues of both these icons, with the Miles Davis statue located in the downtown area on Third Street and the colossal life-size Wadlow statue in North Alton on the campus of Southern Illinois University’s School of Dentistry. The loftiest of monuments to the giants of Alton, however, is reserved for Elijah P. Lovejoy, an abolitionist writer who is considered by many to be the first casualty of the Civil War. And that historical connection of Alton is just one of myriad reasons to visit — it’s a small town with big stories.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

I Went to the Wrong College ...

"I went to the wrong college."

It was never even a doubt that I was going to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because I'd been going to football games with my dad there for years, and my mom went there, and for a high achieving student at a small little Catholic school in southern Illinois, the U of I was pretty much the obvious choice. Just me and about 36,000 students (though it has now just passed 50K).

In reality I should have gone to a small liberal arts school where I wouldn't have become lost amidst all the distractions. I should have gone to Wash-U in St. Louis or perhaps Northwestern or definitely Miami of Ohio, though I'm probably overestimating my brain and credentials. For, even going to a school like DePauw in Indiana, where I had a potential opportunity to keep playing soccer, would have been a really good fit for me. A small school with smaller classes and, perhaps, a better opportunity at a more cohesive sense of community might have kept me more focused on the reason we go to universities - educating ourselves. After being a straight A student my entire life, I graduated from my program in secondary education with a none-too-impressive 2.9 GPA. Yep, I went to the wrong college.

In a place like the U of I, it was too easy to get lost and pursue anything but an education. For example, at Illinois my mandatory government class, Poli-Sci 150, was held in Folinger Auditorium -- just me, the professor, and 1500 classmates. I attended that class approximately five times. Clearly attendance wasn't mandatory, the professor wrote the book and study guide, from which he directly lectured, and my discussion section with the grad student TA at the end of the week was less-than-engaging (though I'd put that on me as much as he). So, I bought the study guide, took the mid-term and final, turned in a paper that I had written for my government class during my sophomore year of high school ... and got a B. That experience -- and showing up late to a final in educational psychology because I was driving back from a Grateful Dead show the night before in Milwaukee -- reflects most of my undergraduate experience.

Yet, I should neither complain nor lament my experience in college. I went to the wrong college, though it turned out to be the right one because that is where I met my wife. Julie and I have been married twenty-two years, have two wonderful children who absolutely amaze and impress and inspire me, and we live just outside of Denver, where I work at and my children attend one of the top high schools in the country. They are the loves of my life, and my career is so satisfying that I often marvel as I walk to school about how exactly I got here. Julie and I met in Speech Com 141, where I thought she was a flighty sorority girl, and she thought I was a disengaged loner, neither was remotely close to true, as she wasn't even in the Greek system and is the furthest thing from flighty, and I happened to be in one of the largest fraternities on campus. Funny how that goes.

I think a lot about college and career choices and how we end up where and who we are as adults, and I try to share some insight with the many students I encounter and the many parents who ask about these things. In terms of colleges, there is not just one, but dozens if not hundreds of options for students. And, in all honesty there is no perfect fit. Nor is the place we choose to study for four years the primary determining factor in the rest of our lives, a reality that was adroitly explained by columnist Nicholas Kristoff in his book Where You Go is not Who You'll Be: an Antidote to the College Admissions Mania. I'm sure I would have had a much richer educational experience at a small college, but it's not all about the classes and the grades. I met so many interesting people at the U of I, all of whom were influential in who I've become. And, granted, much of who I've become was set by who I already was at the age of two or three. Perhaps those qualities are what enabled me to connect with my wife who became the most important influence in my education and personal growth into the adult, husband, father, neighbor, and friend I am. I still recall a roommate telling me after Julie and I had been dating a while -- "She's good for you, Michael. She softens your edges." Oh, how true.

From that initial class together to a few more, a beautiful friendship developed over the next couple years, though neither of us was remotely aware that we would end up married. Interesting to note, many of our friends seemed to know long before we did. That's apparently not an unusual story. So, as it goes, we started dating a few weeks before graduation, moved abroad together to teach English and see the world for five years after graduation, and have been living happily together for nearly three decades.

So, I went to the wrong college. And, at risk of offending the literary types who will groan and roll their eyes as I appropriate and over-interpret the words of Robert Frost, I went to the wrong college "... that has made all the difference."

Thursday, September 19, 2019

What is your Natural Default Setting?

Strangely, I recently noticed that I begin each day, even and especially at work, relatively happy and content. While work awaits and challenges arise, and while I admit that many early Monday alarms leave me staring at the ceiling thinking, "No, I don't want to do this today and again," I must concede that my smiles and "Hellos" to the kids and teachers in the hallway are authentic expressions of joy and comfort with my existence. And, I'm fairly certain that my relatively new attempts at beginning most days with about ten minutes of meditation are a key factor in my general ease with the struggles of dailiness.

That's probably a bit surprising for people who know me, for I tend to operate on a fairly intense level, and it wouldn't be wrong to admit that "drama queen" and  "neurotic princess" have been uttered in reference to me, including by myself. My Natural Default Setting, a term I'm borrowing from David Foster Wallace's brilliant graduation speech entitled "This is Water," given at Kenyon College's commencement in 2005, is "on edge" and in fight or flight mode. It's certainly not a calm demeanor at ease with the world. And, to clarify DFW's term, it is the belief that I am the center of the universe and my beliefs are the only true ones and my needs and desires are the only thing that matter. I tend to come from that viewpoint.

But I'm getting better, I think.

I am moving, hopefully, in the direction of greater awareness and, perhaps, closer to my goal of "living deliberately," a reference from Henry David Thoreau from Walden about living simply and authentically. And, it's so strange that DFW's speech has come back around to me this week because I've honestly been thinking about general contentment and meditation and understanding people in ways that enable me to feel less angsty and intense about traffic or grocery store lines or people I disagree with. For, "The true freedom acquired through education is the ability to be adjusted, conscious, and sympathetic." And that idea reminds me a bit of the insight from Patrick Deneen who challenges our contemporary notions of freedom and reminds us that  early thinkers actually intended the sanctity of freedom not as freedom to do what we want but actually freedom from the most base instincts and qualities that compromise our happiness and contentment.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Are Students Bored ... or Boring?

I'm probably a bit full of it when I try to turn the tables on my students and their ability, or inability, to appreciate the classic literature I've assigned. The crux of the claim is that a book like 1984 or Pride & Prejudice is neither interesting nor boring -- each just exists as an artistic creation. Their value and quality varies depending on the reader. However, the claim cannot be that they are awful or boring or weak or poorly written. And, if they come across as "boring," it may simply be that the reader who feels that way is the only boring entity in the exchange. Thus, I try to emphasize that my greatest hope as a teacher is that my students come to appreciate the work as a quality work of art and social commentary, even if they don't really like it. And, I hope they won't call it "boring," but simply concede that it's not their preference and, perhaps, they can't fully "appreciate" its brilliance. Because I am certainly not going to use class time to engage with any piece of art I don't believe is brilliant.

So, each year at some point we have this exchange, and each year I grow a bit as well. This year a student wanted to know what work I found "boring" -- because if I didn't like it, there was no way she was going to invest the time. I laughed, but it did make me a bit sad, for I don't want to be that curmudgeonly presence in anyone's education. That said, we had an interesting chat about works from our curriculum they were bored by. When the classic archetype for all modern superheroes, Beowulf , came up, I felt compelled to defend the famous Geat and help them understand why the poem is anything but boring. The gap, I believe, is the ability of people to connect with and grasp the written word as entertainment. If I can bridge that gap, I will truly be educating. And, perhaps one day my students will not only "appreciate" Beowulf in some similar way to Iron Man and Captain America, but they just might be inclined to buy my, yet-to-be-written, scholarly study of allusions and the epic hero, "The Bible, Beowulf, & Buffy: allusion and archetypes in popular culture."

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Novelists & the "Voice of a Generation"

When I was in college in 1991 and discovered this new funny-looking novel by Douglas Coupland called Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, I was intrigued and became a fan, even going as far as writing my Master's thesis on the early works of Coupland in 2002. However, I was also surprised after finishing the book to read on the back that some reviewer had offered the blurb: "A Modern day Catcher in the Rye." That just seemed wrong. Coupland was the first to agree and to reject the notion that he was the "voice of Generation X," and he even went as far as declaring the "death of Generation X" in an article for Details. While Coupland's novel was certainly a zeitgeist novel that captured a moment in time and reflected the general ennui of people in their 20s in the early post-Reagan years, the comparison to an iconic generation-spanning novel like Salinger's work, which has sold roughly 65 million copies, just seemed absurd.

So, what exactly do we mean by the voice of a generation? That's been on my mind since encountering the work of Irish novelist Sally Rooney. It just seems odd to anoint a writer as the "Salinger of the Snapchat generation" when her books have sold roughly 60,000 copies, and the whopping majority -- I'm guessing 95% -- of people under the age of thirty-five have never heard of her and will never read her book. So, can we really say she "speaks for a generation"? What does that really mean anyway. Certainly, it is possible to speak in a voice that reflects a collective experience without the need to be famous, popular, and recognized by the entire group. Truly, the same can be said of Coupland, for it's a safe bet that most Gen Xers never read the novel, don't know how their label originated, and couldn't even identify the author.

In thinking about the generational voice idea for Millennials and Gen Z (or Generation neXt as I like to call them), I've also encountered the insight and literary work of writer/novelist Tony Tulathimutte, who has the distinction of writing what the New York press termed "the first great Millennial novel," while also penning an insightful bit of cultural commentary for the New York times where he posited "Why There's No Millennial Novel." The English teacher and sardonic literary critic in me loves the ironic dichotomy of those two pieces, and it helps extend my interest in the idea of a novel as the voice of a generation.

So, what do you think?