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Literature Guide for A Time to Every Purpose - Mo's Journal
May 2nd, 2005
02:57 pm


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Literature Guide for A Time to Every Purpose
In my stories, as in the X-Men movie, Scott Summers is a mutant superhero who also teaches high school. The movie doesn't specify what he teaches, but I've made him an English teacher. Xavier's Academy is a small school with a large variety of classes to choose from. Consequently each of the teachers takes on several different classes. Scott is seen in my stories teaching courses ranging from Shakespeare to Creative Writing to a poetry survey course, when he's not off on a mission. As Scott tells Logan in We’re Not What You Think, it's kind of a strange job. "Sometimes I teach English, sometimes I save the human race," he explains.

With Scott a major figure in most of my fiction, the stories tend to contain a lot of literary quotes, most of them guided by Scott's tastes in literature (which, strangely, mirror my own). It has been my practice to publish a literature guide providing references for the quotes in each series, along with URLs, where available, for those wishing to read the works quoted.


Robert Frost. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” This poem gives the title to the first and last stories. It’s a brief, reflective poem and one learned by most schoolchildren. The narrator stops and reflects on life, while riding through a snowy woodland. He ends by saying that he has “promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” Read it, with interesting commentary, on the Minstrels site, at http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/155.html.

Rudyard Kipling. “Gunga Din.” A truly wonderful narrative poem, this one tells the story of the water boy of a British regiment. It recounts his heroic death as told by a surviving soldier. The end of the poem:
“Though I’ve belted you and flayed you
By the living Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din”

has entered the language. Adam paraphrases the ending, telling Jake that he’s a better man, alluding perhaps to his feelings that he mistreated Jake. I like the Minstrels site for this poem. Since the people who run Minstrels are Indian, they have a different kind of insight into the English poets who write about India. Look for Gunga Din at http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/1127.

Carl Sandburg. “Murmurings in a Field Hospital.” One of Sandburg’s more moving poems of World War I, this has appeared in a number of my stories, usually with Scott quoting it, seeing Logan in the damaged soldier who wants only playthings. In this series, it gives the title to the second story. The brief poem, which makes me cry every time I read it, can be read in its entirety at http://www.bartleby.com/165/70.html.

William Shakespeare. Sonnet 23. One of the sonnets written to Will’s male lover, the Fair Youth. It’s about missteps in love and gives the title to the third story, where Jean-Paul and Adam begin to have renewed difficulties when Jake comes back into the picture. This is one of my favorite sonnets and can be found at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/23.html.

William Shakespeare. Sonnet 32. Another of the poems written for the Fair Youth, this one talks about Will’s expectation that he will die before his lover. Scott and Logan are well aware that Logan is likely to long outlive Scott, although the events of this series call that assumption into question a bit. The title of the sixth story, in which the possibility that Logan has been unknowingly “sharing” the healing factor first comes to light, comes from this poem. Read it at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/32.html.

William Shakespeare. Sonnet 41. This is one of several poems in which Will tries to reconcile himself with his lover’s infidelity. It gives the title for the ninth story in this series and its themes connect with what’s happening between Jean-Paul and Adam. Read the poem at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/41.html

Dylan Thomas “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.” Thomas’s famous poem exhorting his dying father to fight for life is quoted by Scott when he tries to persuade Charles to try Anjuli’s experimental treatment. It also provides the title for the eighth story in this series. It’s powerful, simple, and moving. Read it at http://www.poets.org/poems/poems.cfm?prmID=1159

Walt Whitman. “I Sing the Body Electric.” A beautiful and uplifting poem that honors our physical and sexual selves. This one shows up in a few of my stories. In my first series, Scott is embarrassed to have Charles observe him teaching the poem, feeling like a poem that celebrates physicality is inappropriate to discuss with Charles there, in light of his physical limitations. In this series, the poem give the title to the fourth and fifth stories.


William Shakespeare. Hamlet. Perhaps Shakespeare's most read and performed play, Hamlet has something for everyone: love, death, intrigue, theatricality, ghosts. Scott refers to having gotten new insight into the play from Jamie’s participation in his Shakespeare seminar (as recounted in Commencement). The title of the seventh story in this series, “Fear and Wonder,” comes from Horatio’s description of his reaction at seeing the dead king’s ghost. I like the Shakespeare Online site for its easy-to-read print and its excellent commentary on the plays and poems. Read the play at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/hamletscenes.asp.

William Shakespeare. Henry V. Scott quotes Prince Hal’s famous battle cry, “Once more into the breach” ironically, when he and Charles decide to try to find RoseAnn one more time. Perhaps the most popular of the histories, this one is often performed regionally. There is an excellent movie version as well, starring Olivier. You can find this one at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/henryvscenes.html

William Shakespeare. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. One of the more popular of the Shakespearean comedies, this one is all about love and marriage and is presumed to have been written for a wedding celebration. It’s quoted a few times in the final story, in which Jean and Sasha marry. You can find it at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/midsscenes.html

William Shakespeare. Othello. A tragedy of love and jealousy and imagined infidelity. Scott is teaching it in his Shakespeare seminar. RoseAnn quotes from the play when she says that she loves Scott “not wisely but too well” but remarks that loving too well isn’t so compatible with killing the one you love, as Othello does. Her long-awaited essay on the play includes rewriting the final scene from a feminist perspective. Although Jean-Paul doesn’t quote from Othello, his obsession with Jake and inability to believe Adam when he says he’s had no contact with him mirrors Othello’s obsession in the play. Read it at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/othelloscenes.html

William Shakespeare. The Tempest. Cyclops quotes Gonzalo’s utopian vision from the Tempest in the first story because it includes the phrase “no metal.” He tells Charles that his idea of utopia is somewhat different from that of Gonzalo. Adam also quotes from this play when he says that he finds Jean-Paul “so perfect and so peerless,” a sentiment he seems to be rethinking later. A fascinating and complex play that embodies some of the qualities of drama and some of comedy, The Tempest tells the story of people whose lives are forever changed by magic, calamity and chance on a deserted island. Read it at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/tempscenes.html


Alexandre Dumas (père). The Three Musketeers. One of the original “swashbuckler” novels, this is a story of politics, honor and palace intrigue set in 17th century France. The main character, a young man named D’Artagnan, meets up with the three musketeers of the title – Athos, Porthos, and Aramis – when he leaves home to join the royal musketeers. The slogan of the four friends – “all for one and one for all” – has entered the language. Anjuli, Jean-Paul, and Adam refer to themselves as the three musketeers, but when Jean-Paul says he wishes to be D’Artagnan, Adam says they need a fourth. It’s an exciting and fun book and widely available online. The Project Gutenberg versions can be found at http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext98/1musk12.txt (in English translation) and http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/1/3/9/5/13951/13951-8.txt (in the original French).

Miscellaneous Works

Kohelet (Ecclesiastes). The title of the series comes from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, a book of both the Jewish and Christian bibles. “To ever thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven” is the beginning of that chapter, which concerns itself with the cycles of life and death. A very well laid out site with both Hebrew and English text is that of the Jewish Publication Society. Read the chapter in question at http://www.breslov.com/bible/Ecclesiastes3.htm.

Rent. This long-running Broadway show is based on La Boheme, but set in the late twentieth century, among HIV-infected bohemians on New York City’s Lower East Side. Jonathon Larson won the Pulitzer Prize for the book, but died before the show opened. Scott recognizes that Crystal is quoting from Rent in the first story, and tells her she’s seen the show too many times.

Marvin Gaye. “Sexual Healing.” The song Logan jokingly names Anjuli’s new treatment after is one by Marvin Gaye. Lyrics can be found at http://www.seeklyrics.com/lyrics/Marvin-Gaye/Sexual-Healing.html.

(3 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:May 7th, 2005 01:18 pm (UTC)
it's great but are you going to update your website??
[User Picture]
Date:May 7th, 2005 01:38 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it. The website is a problem at the moment :-(. My website designer has been unable to update in recent months. So my last 3 series (Returning Spring, Reminiscences, and now this one) aren't there.

I really want to put those series up and add pretty pictures. I have a lot of extra pics of Jake from when I wrote Unexpected Occurrences. Unbeknownst to me, the guy I chose to "cast" him is kind of an up-and-coming actor, which is partly why I brought him back in this series. Of course part of it was that I got to wondering who he really was as an individual, having just thought of him as the Guy Who Fucked Adam and part of it was wanting to torture Jean-Paul and Adam, since conflict generates plot.

Anyway devildoll came to my rescue, because that's just the kind of web-enabled, techno-savvy superhero she is. She is very kindly setting me up with a new site that will be easy enough for even an HTML dolt like me to put up my own stories with pictures, or so she claims (but perhaps she has never encountered someone who's quite so much of an HTML dolt). Stay tuned. I hope to have all the stories on the website, shortly, with illustrations, as well as to add some characters to the bios.
[User Picture]
Date:May 7th, 2005 02:19 pm (UTC)
lovely, please tell me when you finish it.
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