My new children’s fantasy novel Painting Sunsets will go on sale next month. You can pre-order the book online or through your local bookstore.
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It’s been raining for days on end.
The girls are back from their trips.
Home is warm with their presence once again.
M1 bought all sorts of souvenirs.
A paper weight of a castle she visited.
I sat at the breakfast table this morning.
Indeed! the castle figurine caught my eye.
Why not give it a try!
I pulled out my sketchpad and pens.
The Third is heroic.
The Fifth is iconic.
The Ninth is a miracle.
But of all the Nine symphonies, my favorite has always been the Seventh. I don’t know why exactly. It just appealed to me immediately, the rhythms and melodies, the energy pulsing through yet not overwhelming. More subtle than the others, yet somehow truer to itself.
And there is a joy that runs through it, different from the Ode to Joy of the Ninth, more self-contained and pure, especially in the Allegretto, the second movement. You can hear something similar sometimes in Bach and Mozart. I don’t know what it is. But I think of it as the joy of a master engaged only in the work.
Just vague impressions I know.
Hard to explain.
How do you judge a symphony? Or greatness? Or art?
Mozart and Shakespeare are at the top for me. Old Bach is not far behind. Michelangelo perhaps belongs near. And somewhere not too far down the list is Beethoven.
To some extent, maybe a great extent, it is a personal decision. You could break it down into categories I suppose. Originality. Breadth of expression. Depth of emotion. Uniqueness. Capacity.
But in saying that the Seventh is my favorite, I am not really judging it. I’m just expressing a preference. Though somewhere down deep maybe there is little difference, since judgement has to be based on something, and if you go far enough down there are likely personal choices supporting whatever criteria you elect.
So I was delighted today, listening to it on the radio, when the announcer noted that the Seventh was Beethoven’s favorite too. When asked why it was not as well-known as the others, Beethoven reportedly said: “Because it’s better.”
Who am I to argue with the master?
(Image: A Beethoven Enthusiast by Moriz Jung. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/649890)
The power of art, in its different forms, has always been acknowledged, and sometimes, in order to control its effect, authorities limit the access of the pubic to different works of art. Throughout history books have often been banned because of the belief that they could affect the minds of the readers and corrupt them.
Like our officials in the Ministry of Education I also believe in the power of art, in particular the novel, to influence the reader and to change his/her opinions. Moreover, when we consider the minds of our young readers we must be careful in our choices
But unfortunately today, in contrast to the days when books were almost the only source of knowledge and ideas, the written word ,inside the traditional book, has lost its clout. There are many effective and immediate forms of communication which could prove much more powerful and even harmful.
Research has consistently shown that during adolescence students hardly read at all. As a result, this reality makes the decision which books they should read, as part of the curriculum, much more significant.
The criterion for choosing the best books for students, those which will stay with them as they go about life, has not changed throughout the ages. In the 17th century the English writer and literary critic, John Dryden pronounced that a good book has to instruct and to delight, and many other thinkers before him said similar things.
I read in Ha’aretz that banning Rabinian’s novel Borderlife led to some serious discussions, in ten high-schools, centering on the question whether literature could be immoral.
I am not going to discuss this question here, but instead I would like to give an example.
Great novels often provide an opportunity to expose youngsters to philosophical questions. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is such a book, and if it is to be taught to teen-agers, the teacher must focus not only on the problematic content of the novel, but show the students how to become a critical reader.
Since the story is told in the first person, from the point of view of protagonist Humbert Humbert, the students have to become familiar with the technique of unreliable narrator. They have to be able to trace how the author, Valdimir Nabokov, implicitly criticizes his narrator, so that the reader would be able to condemn his actions as well..
On the surface Lolita is the best example of immoral literature, it is about a pedophile, a criminal, and perhaps it is best if young minds stay away from this work of art for fear of turning into criminals. However, like all great literature, Lolita is much more than that and, if taught properly, it could force students to examine their values and beliefs, and make them aware on their own ethical flaws. The book is written so well that the reader could easily gloss over the crimes which are committed by the convincing narrator.
I believe that books which present serious ethical conflicts should be taught in high schools. But they deserves special attention, and teachers must be equipped with the necessary background and sensitivity in order to introduce such texts to their students.
Even before the age of information people have always been fascinated with lists, among them we could find the “greatest books ever written.” Many of those books, such as Huckleberry Finn, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Ulysses and of course Lolita, had also been banned and then gained a huge popularity:
The same happened to Dorit Rabinyan, once she joined the long, and respectable, list of banned books her popularity soared and her books literally disappeared off the shelves. All the while, her fellow writers, who are struggling in today's economy, are left to plead with the Education Minister: "Naftali please ban my book."
The essay appeared in the Times Of Israel'