‘And what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?’
Books and Conversation.
My third child will be turning 14 years old in June. I am planning a month long block on Alice in Wonderlandas she prepares to go down the rabbit-hole of the third seven-year stage of her life, adolescence.
Adolescence is a sort of journey into Wonderland. She will venture out and meet many characters and have many conversations that test her assumptions and possibly solidify or dissolve beliefs that she has unknowingly absorbed or that we, as parents and her family, have unintentionally grafted.
Hopefully through this journey, she can still come to us and ask questions and see that the art of conversation itself is a valuable tool to learn lessons.
This book is a book of conversations. Alice meets characters where a simple conversation leads to head-spinning ideas and thoughts. She is both curious and frustrated as she engages in their play with words.
I have seen this same curiosity and frustration in my daughter too. This third daughter is obsessed with words – the origins, the meaning, the usage. She reads and then sits for awhile looking out into the horizon with her hand under her chin. I can sense the tornado of words swirling in her head and it is only a matter of time for the storm to flatten into a question. I make myself a coffee and clear everything in front of me in anticipation. And just as I get comfortable and sit, a subtle cue, she begins the conversation.
Sometimes it’s a simple question:
What does acquiesce mean?
Sometimes it’s a complex question:
Do you really think the dark ages were ‘dark’ in the metaphorical sense of course?
(And she goes on to propose that perhaps the Industrial Revolution was ‘darker.’)
She loves dinner parties. She loves to listen and is delighted when someone asks her a question. If you have teens that need practice in conversation, have a dinner party and invite good conversationalists. They set an example and invite others to join in the conversation.
What good is a book without conversation?
Tell this to my husband and he will roll his eyes.
I like to read a variety of different books and nothing is more irritating for my husband than for me to interrupt his training/writing practice/work with a cool thing I just read. Sometimes I can’t contain my enthusiasm and wait until date night.
(This probably the same irritation I feel when he is driving listening to an audiobook and interrupts my reading of a real book to tell me if I just caught that cool thing he just heard. His excuse is that he won’t remember it for date night.)
Words on the page and words spoken are powerful and can inspire us humans to turn toward beauty or toward darkness.
But a gentle conversation can allow for grey and a little bit of tolerance which is what we all need more of in today’s world. A single conversation can open up a world of possibilities.
The next few “mayBE” prompts will be inspired by books I am reading currently to spark conversation and to reiterate the theme of “possibility.”
- What books are you reading right now? Can you start a conversation about something that has been revealed to you in a book?
- Go start a conversation.
- Even better: go start a conversation with an adolescent about something they have been reading.
- What book leads to interesting conversations?
- Read Alice again or copy a favorite conversation from the book.
- Draw a “conversation.”
My favourite Alice conversation:
‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t care much where—‘ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘—so long as I get somewhere,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if only you walk long enough.’