October 14, 2003
an uplifting story
A lot of what I see in the world just depresses the shit out of me. But, every now and then, I see a story such as this one that makes me glad to be alive.
NEW YORK: A teenage novelist who has never attended school has scaled the American bestseller lists with an adventure featuring a boy, a sword, a magical stone, a dragon and the pursuit of a tyrannical king. The novel, which is outselling Harry Potter books in America, was snapped up by a British publisher last week at the Frankfurt book fair.
Film rights have been sold for a six-figure sum. The fantasy, Eragon, was conceived in the shadow of the Beartooth mountains of Montana. In this remote landscape, author Christopher Paolini began scribbling down his daydreams at the age of 15. "I go walking alone as often as I can.
The little shit is closing in on a million dollars before he's old enough to vote. I LIKE that.
Although Paolini is still writing part two, the end has been mapped out in his imagination. His achievement is all the more remarkable because he never had a formal education. His mother Talita, a trained Montessori teacher, educated him and his sister Angela, who is two years younger, at home. He believes his isolation — the nearest town is 20 miles away — and lack of close friends fired his imagination.
I admire anyone who writes well. I especially admire anyone who writes well early in life. Most people call that a "talent." I don't.
Writing well involves a willingness to expose a lot of your SELF that most people aren't willing to do, and it involves a lot of practice. That boy evidently has both aspects under control. I wish him well.
Thank Bejus that he didn't grow up in detroit.
Teacher's Unions. What a grand fucking idea.
enh. the kid may be smart, but it sounded like a Tolkien rip off from the second I saw that it was called "Eragon." and that was before I read the paragraph about the maps that look similar to Middle Earth and the invented languages. "Paolini disputes the extent of JRR Tolkien's impact on him.." whatever, kid. don't lie, ok? I mean, good for him for not sitting on his ass and actually doing something with his life, but don't lie about where your inspiration comes from, especially in the midst of all the Lord of the Rings craziness.
That is a great story. Especially considering the poor bastard was home schooled. God knows how fine his writing would be if he'd been lucky enough to attend D.C. schools.
There's nothing inherently wrong with the idea of teacher's unions.
There's nothign inherently wrong with the the idea of tenure.
But they don't need BOTH.
I know of school superintendent who has a simple policy: Fire new teachers before they qualify for tenure. He makes rare exceptions for highly talented and caring teachers.
He thinks it's the only way he has control over the quality of education.
Methinks he's been burned too many times by teachers who retire on the job.
Remember, of course, that I am going back to school to get my teaching degree.
I am in the position of being pro-union, but fully aware of the many problems facing schools that are sometimes caused by the unfirability of some teachers, as well as the strength of teacher unions in electing school board members.
I think good writing is a combination of both practice and talent. Same with any other skill - such as baseball or piano.
If you think there is nothing wrong with teachers unions look at the kids who graduate from government schools and those that graduate from private schools. The difference is unionized teachers in government schools. And they are failing miserably. I can send my child to boarding school for what they spend per child. It isn't about money. It is about teachers who aren't held accountable for their students learning. And apparently teachers unions find accountability an an anathema
Girl, everything written by ANYBODY is a rip-off of something else. All writers are the synthesis of everything they've ever read in their lives and those things affect their "imaginations."
The only question a reader needs to ask is "Is it good?"
Heinlein wrote that there are no original ideas in fiction ... just writers who are better than others at "filing off the serial numbers."
And if teachers unions are the sole problem, how to you explain the excellent students who graduate from public schools.
Believe me, thoughtless school board members and mindless intrusion by state and federal governments hurt schools as well.
Some kids are good enough on their own to survive public school unscathed. Too bad that for every one of these kids there is 100 middling kids who are totally screwed over by the system.
It always irks me when someone uses the phrase "ripped off Tolkien". I hate to break the news, but Tolkien didn't invent the fantasy genre. He didn't invent dragons and hobbits and the odd strangers coming into the village to take the brave heros off to grand battles against evil. Those stories have been around for hundreds of years, and he used them, just as everyone else has.
This is a good thing. It continues to improve the stories in use. Hell, look at Robert Jordan. His stories have a slight degree of Tolkien in them (although they come from sources such as Twain, Austen and Dickens as opposed to Tolkien himself), and you know what? They're better stories.
Tolkien's greatness as an author is not in question, but don't suggest that he owns the seed of creativity.