I feel like you need to know that before you read this post about my WEM methodology. Don’t let the doctored photos and wordy explanations fool you. Those are pitfalls in the dangerous land of internet perfection. My classics journey takes place in the land of illegible scribbles, rushed chapters, half-written ideas, misspellings and forgotten deadlines.
For instance, I read late at night. I need the
quiet silence. I’ve come to terms with the fact that it goes against SWB’s recommendation. But I do try to follow some of her other suggestions.
I keep a character list.
Although this is an example from back in the day when I took notes about each person. Prior to that I used to put the page of their first appearance here as well. Oh, the glory days.
I summarize every chapter, if by “every” you mean the ones at the beginning of the novel thoroughly, the middle ones in sloppy scrawl, and the last two to twelve not at all. I try to write the factual summary in cursive, and then print out my reactions, questions, analysis, foreshadowing and the like below.
The printed part is the equivalent of talking to myself.
Which I also sometimes do. By reading aloud, that is. This is my go-to strategy for dealing with a particularly difficult section of a book or a dreary, weary brain. And then there are the times that I just turn the whole shebang over to the professionals: audiobooks.
I also picked up a helpful hint from John Bunyan. You remember how throughout Pilgrim’s Progress he gave us those clever little side notes told you what was happening?
I try to pencil in little things like that if 1) the action is hard to follow 2) I think something pivotal has just occurred, or 3) I have reread the same paragraph four times.
I also jot other notes in the margins next to a plethora of underlined text. In college wind symphony our conductor once gave a helpful bit of advice that I’ve carried into my classic book marking. He said that we shouldn’t just circle a note or dynamic marking; doing so wouldn’t help us fix the mistake. Instead we needed to write something that explains the problem to be addressed; name the note, draw eyeglasses to remind you to watch the director, write the words “slow down.” Deceivingly simple, astoundingly effective.
So when I highlight a passage I try to take the time to scribble a few words to myself that explains the significance of the section.
Recently I implemented a new technique in my WEM journaling. For past novels I’ve simply added pages to the end of each section to answer SWB’s questions. For the reading of POAL I put those questions in my journal first, and as I came across portions of the book that seemed to specifically address those things I had a preorganized location to drop the page numbers for safe keeping. It’s hard to tell how well it worked because I did a really lousy, half-baked job of answering the questions on James’
Because we blog about the books I also have an additional note-taking method. I keep a small piece of lined paper (I’m definitely with Christine about the importance of lines) as a bookmark. On one side I list words and pages for future Classic Word of the Day posts, and the other I brainstorm ideas for other posts.
So, now you know what I’ll be up to in about an hour. Sooner or later I’ll quit cleaning/grading/planning/chilling-with-my-husband, don my pajamas, and crawl into bed. I’ll crack open the Huck Finn, read a chapter, stop to chat with my beloved about it, journal a little, remember something I should have told him earlier, jot down some more, complain about how he turns over as many times as a puppy when he gets into bed thereby messing up my handwriting, start another chapter, finally decide my eyes will stay open no longer, flip off the reading light and snore away the hours.
See you in the morning.