Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What Are You Reading?

Many of our schoolmates have talked about books they have read or are reading today.  Think back to your high school days - what teacher was prompting you to read back then?

Helen Thies - She Loved Her Lit
Perhaps in junior high you read some of the teen mystery books like Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins (72 books written by a syndicate between 1904 and 1979), or their ilk.  Or perhaps you read some of those fabulous sports novels, where fair play was more than a favorite term, becoming heroic by invoking the concept of fair play as the cause du jour.  In some of those novels the protagonist learned from the hard work of the Polish kid, whose name ended in "sky," or "ski," that being Polish was not a bad thing, that you could play on the same team, and that the nastiness of the kids at "Northern" or "State" was far greater than the undeserved ethnic disfavor heaped on the Polish kid earlier in the novel.  And there weren't any Polish kids in Northwood anyway, were there?

None of these books was included in the curriculum, outside reading that they were, and not until one encountered American literature as a junior, under the tutelage of Helen Thies, did one become erudite about great American novels.  Or did we?  Certainly we heard about Mark Twain, Emerson, Thoreau and others, but how many of them became part of your reading library - or inspired you to read more?  Perhaps the criticism is unfair, perhaps not.

As sophomores we were treated to an entire quarter of Leonidis Chimbidis reading All's Quiet on the Western Front, no doubt a great novel, but certainly an easy lesson plan for him to prepare just as it meant no homework for the students.  So it was like we were getting cheated on inspiration.

And then this writer discovered, through the Google, that Mr. Chimbidis died at age 73 in 2004, and found his obituary online.

We missed out on something, as you will discover if you click that link and read his obituary.  He was indeed a traveled man.  He never left you with any doubt that he was quite intellectual, but the depth and breadth of his life may surprise you.  It's just that he never seemed like the kind of guy who would come out to the farm and help you unload a wagon load of bales.  We knew him as having worked as a bartender at the Red Llama, as reported by Mike Lien after one of our proms, but his involvement in the development and operation of that and other businesses was never brought to the light of day.

What a shame.  The obituary reports that Leo was a teacher and philosopher in the tradition of those classical scholars of Classical Greece.  We could have learned much from the man,what with his repeatedly investigating the religious and archaeological sites in Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia. . . .

Leo, we hardly knew ye.

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