Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Barbaric Yawp, O My Soul.

It's family movie night, so I showed my kids The Dead Poet's Society tonight. Ben's 13, loves to write, wants to be an much more perfect could a young Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard paired with Robin Williams be for a young wannabe writer and actor?

Unfortunately, about halfway through the film, Finn started complaining of an upset stomach and headache. He started doing that moan and groan thing little kids do, and then he said,

"Mommy, I think I'm gonna barf."

Just as Robin Williams was introducing his children to the words of Thoreau, ripping out that boring palaver in the Prichard text, with all his sucking of marrow, Finn was emptying the contents of his upper gastrointestinal system onto the sunroom, dining room, living room, and hall floor. We made it to the bathroom and he hurled the rest of his guts out into the toilet. was messy. And, as Ben added, when he brought me towels to clean up the mess, smelly.

One towel was so gross that I put it straight into the wood stove. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Incinerate.

Finn decided he needed to eat some noodles in order to feel better (we were having reheated venison stew for dinner) and, looking from the film to the bowl and back to the film, I said yes, that's a good idea. "Eat some novels so your tummy will feel better."

Novels, noodles, whatever. Same diff.

Finn feels better now, having purged his stomach and refilled it with egg novels, and Ben's transfixed, watching the scene where Robin Williams' character John Keating teaches Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) to sound his barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world.

I watch my elder son watch this scene, and I know he will, in fact, yawp. Not egg novels, like his little brother, but from the marrow, from the deepest part of his soul, the yawp of words into the universe, "...Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them, / Till the bridge you will need be formed, till the ductile anchor hold, / Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul." 



  1. Oh how I love this film. I also love the short story by Ethan Canin, "The Palace Thief." Truly brilliant.

    I've got my yawp down. And when they stand on their desks at the end, there's not a dry eye in this house.

  2. To be 13 and already know what you want from life is absolutely fantastic. All I knew at 13 was that I liked Duran Duran.

    Have you showed him Leonardo DiCaprio in WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE? One of the best performances by a young actor I have ever seen.

  3. I love the Canin story, too, and have lent it out to some of my students. I like just about everything by Ethan Canin, actually.

  4. Oh, and Gilbert Grape? Brilliant. Those entire, heartbreaking story told in those finger movements.

  5. Yawp. I'll bet that towel smelled nasty while it was burning. You're a brave soul to feed the child egg novels after a session like that; I'd be afraid to be stuck picking them out of the carpet during the closing credits.

  6. Such a great movie! Probably better without the special 3-D effects you witnessed though.

    One of the best experiences I've had as a mother is sharing my favorite books and films with my two (now grown) sons. When they share your love of one of them? Pure bliss.

  7. A great post, Jess. Loved reading it. Felt like I was right there with you . . . although I'm kind of glad I wasn't.