Dr. Laura Bloxham’s Mid-Summer Reading: From the Sublime to Beach Trash

Earlier this summer, Dr. Laura Bloxham checked in with Whitworth English Blog about what she’d read so far this summer. That post, as well as her entire reading list, is here. Just a few days ago, Laura sent in this dispatch:

Whitworth English

The middle month of my summer shows contrasts in my reading.  R.A. Dickey’s Wherever I Wind Up has been the read of the summer, to be sure.  And it is not just because I love baseball.  The wildly successful knuckleballer this season has made the Mets a contender and has put Dickey’s name on prime time sports shows.  The book has all kinds of stories from Dickey’s baseball career, mostly long years in the minor leagues.  But the childhood full of anguish and suffering, the faith journey that has saved Dickey, literally, are the most compelling parts.  Here’s a man of integrity and faith.

Whitworth English

Jo Nesbǿ’s The Redbreast is a dark Norwegian mystery. The Redbreast  is superbly written and in sharp contrast with my beach trash reads: Father Brad Reynolds’ A Ritual Death, set at La Conner’s Tulip Festival and featuring Native American/Caucasian fishing rights and land conflicts.  Too many stereotypes.  J.A. Jance’s latest Joanna Brady, Arizona sheriff mystery, Judgment Call, is typical of beach trash—good story, quick pace, and no intellectual skill required of the reader.  My current piece of such trash is James Patterson’s and Mark Reynolds’ Private Games, a mystery set at the London 2012 Olympics, which I am reading during the commercials of the Olympics themselves and sometimes during the more arcane events.

I am in the midst of two more sublime books, Cheryl Strayed’s Tine Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, a collection of online advice columns so compassionate, so moving that I am savoring them a few pages at a time.  The Kick Ass Women Faculty are meeting this week to talk about Becky Sharp in the first third of Vanity Fair.  We’re going to a restaurant with TVs, in order to watch kick ass US women soccer players in the Olympics, while we talk about the novel.

EL Professor Laura Bloxham On Baseball, Narrative, and Pippi Longstocking’s Hairbrush

Perhaps Dr. Laura Bloxham needs no introduction, but here’s one for good measure:

Leonard Oakland claims I was born in the Seattle Public Library.  Not true.  But I raised myself there.  I’m a graduate of Lake Washington HS (Go Kangaroos), Whitworth, and I have two graduate degrees from Washington State University.  I have taught at Whitworth and at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Laura compiled a reading list for 2012 (the list appears at the end of this post) and shared with us how the reading is going so far:

My reading this summer has largely fallen into three categories:  1) baseball literature; 2) reading group books; and 3) mysteries.

I’ve read Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding, a long often painful and explicit novel set on a college campus.  The baseball sections are stunning, the life lessons redemptive.  Despite my despair about half way, I was immensely pleased by the ending.  John Grisham’s Calico Joe is altogether different as a baseball book and novel.  I’m not a Grisham reader.  But I am a fan of this tight narrative.  The baseball, as in The Art of Fielding, is much more than incidental.  There’s history and nuance.  This novel also has its redemptive elements.  But no easy victories in either novel.  I have a few more baseball treasures to come this season, including R.A. Dickey’s non-fiction work.

I’m reading with two groups this summer. For four summers I’ve read classics (Dickens, Eliot) with some young women.  This summer we’ve read Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.  The other group is some Kick Ass Women Faculty reading Kick Ass Women Characters.  We are reading whatever we want for our June-July gatherings and then in August we’re reading Thackeray’s Vanity Fair together.  So far I’ve read Pippi Longstocking (which was very kick ass once I got past her stirring the pancake mix with her hair brush) and three mysteries, Susan MacNeal’s Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, Sue Grafton’s V is for Vengeance and Jacqueline Winspear’s Elegy for Eddie. 

Okay, so categories 2 and 3 crossover.  I am a few pages short of finishing Jeffrey Deaver’s mystery The Burning Wire, featuring Lincoln Rhyme.  And the one book that stands outside all three groups is Anne Tyler’s The Beginner’s Goodbye, which is a tidy and often humorous novel about grief and recovery.

Laura’s Recommended Reading for Summer 2012 and Other Mental

Vacations (36th edition) 

                  “Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore?”

–Henry Ward Beecher


Erik Larson, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin (story of William Dodd, ambassador)

Jeffrey Deaver, Garden of Beasts (stand alone mystery set in 1936 Berlin)

William Deresiewicz, A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter

John Steinbeck, The Moon is Down (WWII)

Chris Cleave, Little Bee (harsh, brutal, but significant acts of giving)

P.D. James, Death Comes to Pemberely (lots of Austen in-jokes)

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1853)

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women (well worth rereading; 1868)

Christopher Fowler, Full Dark House (Peculiar Crimes Unit mystery)

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”

–Italo Calvino


Charlotte Brontë, Villette (her last novel)

Kathryn Stockett, The Help (bestselling novel set in Jackson, MS, 1963-4)

Charles Dickens, Bleak House (one of a number of classics I’ve reread this year)

Hannah W. Foster, The Coquette (American; 1797)

Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Hope Leslie (Native American/Puritan/Gender issues; 1827)

Fanny Fern, Ruth Hall (autobiographical novel; 1855)

Harriet E. Wilson, Our Nig: Or, Sketches in the Life of a Free Black (autobiographical novel; 1959)

Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron-Mills (class struggle; 1861)

The Magazine Novels of Pauline Hopkins (African-American writer; 1901-02)

Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899)

“If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads.”

–François Mauriac


Louise Penny, A Trick of the Light (series)

Michael Stanley, A Carrion Death (Detective Kubu, Botswana)

Henning Mankell, The Fifth Woman (Kurt Wallander, detective)

David Ignatius, Bloodmoney (espionage)

Alexander McCall Smith, The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (No. 1 Ladies        Detective); The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection

Diane Mott Davidson, Crunch Time (cooking/catering series in Colorado)

Janet Evanovich, Smokin’ Seventeen; Explosive Eighteen

Jo Walton, Ha’ Penny (#2 in trilogy); Half a Crown (#3)

Mark Schweizer, The Organist Wore Pumps: A Liturgical Mystery (series); The Countertenor Wore Garlic

Alan Bradley, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (2); A Red Herring Without Mustard (#3); I am Half-Sick of Shadows (#4)

Joanne Harris, Gentlemen and Players

Carolyn Keene, The Mystery at Lilac Inn (Nancy Drew)

Margaret Maron, Three-Day Town (links her New York and Southern series of mysteries)

“Never leave the house without a book—ever—even if you think you’re just going to the grocery store . . . .

. . . .if you’re stuck in a traffic jam or get a flat tire and you’re waiting for someone to come and help you . . . all kinds of moments in the day are reading moments.”

–Sara Nelson, “Marathon for a Reader,” Time, Dec. 16, 2003


Alfons Heck, A Child of Hitler: Germany in the Days When God Wore a Swastika

Sara Miles, Take This Bread (communion)


Bridger Landle (’12) Reflects On Whitworth’s Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl National Championship

I grew up in the rustic town of Palouse, WA, where vast amounts of assorted grains, legumes, and fertile minds are grown. (I like to think of it as saving America, one carbohydrate at a time.) Last spring, I graduated from Whitworth with a degree in English (Writing) and Philosophy, as well as a minor in Communication.  I plan on spending the next year traveling and preparing for graduate school, for which I’ll be applying this upcoming fall.  I would like to pursue a PhD in philosophy, and will probably specialize in ethical theory and/or aesthetics.

Bowl Info

The Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl (IEB) is nationwide annual competition in which teams of students are pitted against one another in a series of debates across two major tournaments featuring over 125 public and private institutions. (Think March Madness, but with fewer screaming fans.)  No distinction is made concerning the size, funding, or prestige of individual schools.  That meant that we went up against the big dogs; we were in the same pool as institutions like Dartmouth, Georgetown, Villanova, and Princeton.  Before each bowl, teams are given 10-15 cases to guide their preparation, but the actual questions are not announced until each round formally begins.  So, while there’s an element of improvisation at the Bowls themselves, extensive research and practice are paramount.

The Team

We were coached by Dr. Mike Ingram (professor of communication studies and associate provost for faculty development and scholarship) and Dr. Keith Wyma (associate professor of philosophy).  In addition to being one of the most outstanding public speakers I know, Mike also has over twenty years of experience coaching debate.  He worked with us one-on-one to improve our clarity, diction, and argumentative style, while Keith tended to focus on the integrity of our arguments and research.  Both coaches would team up each practice to tear apart our cases (usually with great glee).  When our arguments were in any way ill-prepared or haphazard, they made sure that we knew it.  Needless to say, we quickly got tired of losing.  Every practice, we came hungry to beat them.  At the beginning of the semester, Mike and Keith were destroying us.  A few weeks in, crushing rebuttals became less frequent.  After a month, we were holding our own.  By the time the National Bowl came around, we were consistently beating them.  And in the end, we tempered our hunger with the confidence that we could face any opponent, and brought that attitude to the Bowl itself.

(Left to Right: Mike Ingram and Keith Wyma.  Not pictured: Keith’s verbal smackdowns.)

The other members of the team were Krister Johnson (’13, Political Science), JaJa Quarless (’12, Philosophy and Political Science), Jesse Javana (’12, Political Science), and Sarah Sauter (’15, Philosophy and Spanish).  Evan Underbrink was also helpful in preparing for, and competing at, the Regional Bowl.  Krister and JaJa each brought a wealth of experience and leadership to the team.  Krister went on to achieve further national success with Whitworth’s debate and speech forensics team, and his aggressive style propelled our team forward.  JaJa was studying abroad during the spring semester and missed the National Bowl, but was nevertheless instrumental in our success at the Regional tournament.  JaJa’s spot was filled by Sarah, whose precocious mind (not to mention her bugging me to do my research) was crucial to our victory.  Max, whom we nicknamed “The Accountant” for seemingly having memorized every statistic in Encyclopedia Britannica, was able to draw from his storehouse of facts on the fly to stop opposing arguments in their tracks.  Finally, Jesse also brought improvisational abilities to the fore.  Combining his experience in public defense with his comedy skills gained from his four years performing with Whitworth’s improvisational troupe Cool Whip, Jesse was quick with a rebuttal that would often contain a hidden song lyric, if not a subtle and witty pun—a style that was so disarming, opponents would forget he had refuted their point in the process.

Notable moments

In preparation for the trip to Cincinnati, I packed along a pea coat. (Why?  Because I wanted to look stylin’, that’s why.) Unfortunately, however, this decision led to all sorts of problems.  First, I wasn’t able to stuff it inside my bag, and removing other clothes to make room for it made us even more late for our plane than we already were. (Spoiler alert: we caught the plane on time.) Second, unbeknownst to me, the Bowl was scheduled at the Hilton—the very hotel in which we were staying—so there was no reason for us to go outside other than to eat or sightsee.  Third, even if we were going to spend time outside, I wouldn’t have needed a pea coat, or any coat at all, because while it was chilly in Spokane, Cincinnati was experiencing a 75 degree heat-wave.  Needless to say, my wonderful teammates and coaches mocked me relentlessly for my unnecessary carry-on.  Eventually, I snapped, told them all to shove it (albeit in terms less appropriate for this blog) and proclaimed that if we made it to the final round, I’d “wear my ******* pea coat” just to spite them all.  Long story short, we did.  And I did.  It was extremely hot, and rather itchy, but dang I looked fly.

In the semi-finals, we faced Wake Forest, an outstanding team and our most challenging opponent overall.  To quote Mike Tyson in the third-person possessive, their style was impetuous, their defense was impregnable, and they were just ferocious.  Jesse and Max, however, stepped up their game and matched every point Wake Forest made.  The round was an hour-long fury of energy.  Finally, however, it was over, and the judges spent several minutes calmly and deliberately preparing their scores.  Finally, they held up the results.  Out of one hundred eighty points possible, we had won by a single point.  One of their team members broke down and cried.  They were a brilliant team, and it was an honor to have competed with them.  I relayed that sentiment to each member as we shook their hands.  Nevertheless, as we moved on to prepare for the final round, and as they walked over to the elevator, Krister overheard them exclaiming “I hope they lose!”

In the final round, we faced Clemson University.  They wore matching orange shirts atop dark trousers.  When they sat down to debate us, however, all we could see were their orange tops.  From our view, they looked like prison inmates.  Coincidentally, the final case was “Prison Break,” which concerned  the recent decision of Mississippi governor Haley Barbour to suspend the sentences of felons Gladys and Jamie Scott, on the condition that Gladys donate a kidney to Jamie.  After the match was over, we shook hands with Clemson, received the trophy, had our pictures taken, and called friends and family to tell them the news.  After it was all over, we walked to the elevator.  Everyone was exhausted, but happy.  As soon as the door closed, however, Mike Ingram suddenly exclaimed “Prison case, baby.  Beat ‘em at their own game!” before doing a little jig and shrieking in excitement.  Forget the trophy; that alone made the trip.

Closing thoughts:

I knew I had received an outstanding education at Whitworth, but I never had an opportunity to see how it might compare to that of other schools.  This was my first real chance to see, empirically, exactly what I had paid for.  Whitworth has placed within the top five schools at the National Bowl three times in the past four years.  Furthermore, several members of standout teams over the last few years have been English majors.  I do not believe this was a coincidence. Whitworth English department is filled with professors who are committed to producing strong, smart, and capable students.  Several of these professors, including Thom Caraway, Vic Bobb, and Fred Johnson, were exceptionally helpful in providing direct assistance on particular cases.  All of these professors, however, were indirectly involved through the time, energy, and skill that they brought to the classroom, and by being incorrigibly devoted to producing not just better debaters, or better students—but better people.  That goes for all departments, and all people involved.  Any courage or tenacity we showed was tempered by the professors, family, and friends we had around us.  It’s unsurprising to me, then, that my most vivid memory of the Bowl is that of being a part of something much, much larger than myself.

(Left to right: Sarah, Krister, Mike, Max, Jesse, myself.  Not pictured: Keith Wyma.)

Majors Abroad: Claire LePage (’11) Shares the Straight-Up Beauty of Honduras

Claire LePage graduated from Whitworth in 2011 with a major in English Literature and minors in Theology and Peace Studies. She recently sent us this dispatch and photos from Honduras, including this one of little girls in a pony race:

Hello Whitworth English Department!

I miss you all.  I’ve spent this year in Siguateqeque, Honduras, working as a preschool assistant and as an ESL teacher for adults. It’s been a challenging year but a good one. One of the best things about it has been the straight-up Beauty, capitalized, of this part of the world.  There’s a mango tree near my house that looks like this:

That little room where all the branches come together is perfect for reading in with tea, and is also the neighborhood casa del arbol. On different weeks, the kids have covered the tree with glitter and rigged it with a pulley system for secret messages. Love the tree.

Another tree near my house is blooming like this right now:

This is the view from the comedor where I teach evening classes, at about 6pm:

And here are some pictures of me as a teacher, just to prove I’m really doing it.

With the preschoolers:

With a class of parents:

But really, friends, I have seen the most incredible things this year. We travelled to Antigua in October to renew our visas and went to a kite festival celebrating the Day of the Dead. There were kites made out of crepe paper and bamboo that were 40 feet tall:

I got engaged:

Heather Wallace and I met up in Antigua over Semana Santa and saw 7-ton floats of Jesus and Mary carried over alfombras of sawdust and vegetables:

Last weekend some of the other teachers and I visited a waterfall named Pulhapanzak. This happened:

It’s been a spectacular year. I’ve missed the English department, but (to quote Pam) I feel like y’all have travelled with me in space if not in place.

So much love.


Internship Spotlight: Jacquelyn Wheeler (’12) Coordinates Browne’s Addition 2012 Concert Series

EL major Jacquelyn Wheeler (’12) recently graduated from Whitworth. Jacquie’s many accomplishments include her role as editor of Script, Whitworth’s student-run literary journal, and the EL department’s Writing Track award for a graduating senior. Jacquie lives in Browne’s Addition, Spokane’s hippest neighborhood (in my unbiased opinion). This summer she’s coordinating the Browne’s Addition Concert Series. Jacquie submitted the photos, including the ones below of local band Six Foot Swing and of a happy audience at one of last year’s shows in Browne’s.

Jacquie on Jacquie:

I’ve been studying literature and writing. My primary interest moving forward is writing, editing, design, and oil painting. I grew up living just outside of Portland, Oregon. I’ve kept a blog for about four years now: thoughtsprayerspraises.wordpress.com (though it hasn’t been updated since fall, something about senior year, but I’ll get back to it soon).

Jacquie on Her Internship with the Browne’s Addition Neighborhood Council

I first got involved with the Browne’s Addition Neighborhood Council because I had just moved to the neighborhood for the sake of preaching the gospel alongside my church community that lived there. Part of loving a place with the love of Christ involves knowing its needs and striving to serve in that capacity. BANC needed a Concert Series Coordinator, and at least three different people approached me, saying that I would be great for the job. I accepted the position at the Christmas party in December, and I’ve been working since January to raise support, organize fundraisers, keep track of the budget, publicize, book talent, secure insurance and permits, design and print programs and posters, and coordinate volunteers for a series of nine concerts that take place every Thursday evening in July and August.
I doubt I would have had the confidence to take on a project so much bigger than me if it weren’t for the support of my church family. Another group in the neighborhood is in charge of the big fundraiser event, my roommate is taking on the challenge of getting sponsors, and my pastor is coordinating volunteers from the church. Another council member is a yoga teacher in the neighborhood, and she’s offered to teach classes on Monday afternoons with a donation for the series. They pay me a stipend of $1200, which I am trying to figure out how to invest back into the neighborhood, because I would do this job for free.

Jacquie on the Importance of Internships:

Talk to professors with connections in your area of interest, and be involved in the community outside Whitworth (where those opportunities are). I have had this job and one other internship during my time at Whitworth. The first was a job as an editorial assistant at Gray Dog Press, which I learned about because I asked for Spokane publishing connections from Thom Caraway, who then introduced me to Marcus, the GDP senior editor. I found this concert coordinator job due to my prior community involvement. I can’t advocate enough for the importance of dipping your toe in the practical-application side of a field. It gives you a taste of what you’ll be dealing with when you leave college life, helps you know how to market yourself in that field (and others) because you know firsthand what it demands, and allows you to give back to the community.

Majors Abroad: Katie Palmer’s Postcard From Milan

Katie Palmer, second from left, is a junior English major from Snohomish, WA. She spent a month in London on a Jan-term trip and is now studying in Milan for four months. Learn more about her adventures abroad at http:www.londontomilan.blogspot.com
Katie provided these photos of the Duomo (“perfect example of Gothic architecture,” she writes) and of a fashion show she attended during Milan’s fashion week.
Hello dear Whitworth English department!
I have been studying in Milan, Italy for three months now and I have fully come to understand why the “Eat” portion of Eat, Pray, Love took place in Italy. It’s pasta, pizza, and gelato every day, and somehow it never gets old. Aside from eating, I’ve been traveling a lot. So far I’ve touched down in London, Paris, Berlin, and Venice, and have an upcoming trip to Stockholm in the works.
English-wise, I’m taking a class on Dante and Machiavelli which is interesting, but oh so easy compared to Whitworth English classes. I’m missing the challenge of Whitworth. But then again, I have gelato.
I hope all is well in Westminster!
See you this fall,
Katie Palmer