Daily Archives: February 17, 2008

Remembering Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Gates

February 22nd, 2005

I’m looking at a scrap of that orange right now and carry another in my wallet. They are official mementos of one of the most glorious artworks of the last decade: Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Gates: Central Park, New York City, 1979-2005. I’d heard the two talk about the project years earlier (probably in the 80s) and knew that New York City officials were dead set against it. But things change, artists and officials, and suddenly the project was okayed. I was elated!

So there I was three years ago peering out of the window of the bus I took to school every day; one that went along the north and east sides of Central Park. I started to see huge flatbed trucks and then intriguingly huge piles of stuff as the final preparations were made. On the weekends I ran through the park, exploring further. I followed the artists on their website, in the media; I couldn’t get enough of the project. And then I brought it to my students and my students to it. We went to see those magical gates as they were before, as they were being set up, and , once up, on sunny days, snowy days, and even on high. The children wrote poetry and created wonderful collages. It was a remarkable time; one I won’t forget ever.

So when Neal Porter told me that Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, creators of such wonderful works as Action Jackson, were doing a book on the artists and the project I couldn’t have been happier. And now it is just about ready! Last month at ALA I was privileged to have breakfast with Jan, Sandra, and Neal who showed me the page proofs for Christo and Jeanne Claude: Through the Gates and Beyond; they were amazing. I can’t wait for the book itself.

The pub date is April 1, but I’m thinking about those glorious Gates right now.

  • Remembering how I ran through them in the dark early mornings listening to them flap in the wind.
  • Remembering their reflections in the Harlem Meer.
  • Remembering how they stood like standing stones in a circle on the Great Hill.
  • Remembering my students playing tag around them on a sunny day.
  • Remembering an exhilarating child_lit field trip, walking through the crowded park (crowded in February!).
  • Remembering walking through the park as they were being taken down and chatting with Christo and Jeanne-Claude themselves.
  • Remembering this February when the park is, as usual cold and bare, that other February when the park was so filled with orange.


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 Edward Champion on “Bill Keller Can Do No Wrong.”

Nominally about Ruth Conniff’s review of Keller’s children’s biography of Nelson Mandela, Tree Shaker, but really about conflict of interest.

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Why Teach the So-Called Classics?

The question is often debated. Why give kids an evidently yawn-inducing classic to read in school instead of something more current, more relevant to their lives now?

My answer is: because a great book, properly taught, will engage and, far from putting students to sleep, will excite them.   For example, I’m just about to begin my annual teaching of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Now none of my students today live a life remotely like Alice’s. Yet with some context (provided with other books, videos, and notes from the annotated edition) they enjoy the book tremendously.

And evidently something good also happens when young people at the Boston Latin School read The Great Gatsby.

BOSTON — Jinzhao Wang, 14, who immigrated two years ago from China, has never seen anything like the huge mansions that loomed over Long Island Sound in glamorous 1920s New York. But F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, “The Great Gatsby,” with its themes of possibility and aspiration, speaks to her.

That is the start of a very interesting New York Times article by Sara Rimer, “Gatsby’s Green Light Beckons a New Set of Strivers,” Thanks to Mark Sarvas for the tip.


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