Some firsts of life and a fairytale

Because of certain things that happened in the past week, I can now say that I’ve done some stuff that I’ve never done before.

The first of these things—and possibly the most important—is that I bought and wore… wait for it… a shirt with elbow patches.

WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER

When I walked through the streets of east London, I could actually feel every member of the cult of coffee-drinking faux-hipsters who carry classic literature in leather satchels, giving me the nigh-imperceptible Nod of Solidarity. My elbow patches were a material symbol of our fraternity. Classic 1950s, overpriced unity, brah. Besides that, my elbows were, like, super warm that day, so all in all, I’d say I was winning.

My London Exchange

The second of these things is slightly less awesome than elbow patches, but exciting news nonetheless. As of March 5, I officially became a contributing writer on Mylondonexchange.com (MLE), a site for exchange students looking to study abroad in London. The founder of the site Peter Fernandes stumbled across my blog a few weeks ago, and contacted me via Twitter asking if I’d be willing to write for MLE as an American studying at Queen Mary University of London.

Before I knew it I was cranking out a short piece about why I consistently embarrassed myself in the first few weeks of attending a British university, and how I am so much wiser now because of knowledge and just read it, it’s full of insight.

The link to my first post is here (or just click on the MLE logo above): “What they don’t tell you about studying abroad

The third life experience I had was a few nights ago when my ex-roomie and I found ourselves at the Wilmington Arms pub watching a bunch of 30-year-old nerds give timed presentations about science. The event was called “Science Showoff,” and it was bizarre/awesome/why for more than one reason.

scishowReason #1: the hilarious MC Steve Cross discussed why one should never pay £350 for a slumber party for two at the Natural History Museum (because this is a thing that happens, apparently). His reasoning was that you can buy many so many other wonderful things with £350, and while those would sadly not include sleeping under Dippy the skeletal Dino, it would also mean not having to watch the museum’s presentation on the sex lives of insects (because that is also a thing that happens).

Reason #2: one of the 9-minute acts told us a horrifying story about the roundworm that had been living in his gut for two years, shortly before chucking cooked spaghetti noodles into the crowd and doing the worm dance on stage.

Reason #3: I now know what London scientists do for fun, which is holding open mic nights in pub basements to see who can psychologically scar certain Arts & Humanities students the fastest.

And this brings me to today, when I saw one of the most beautiful little short films I’ve seen in a long time in my Text, Art and Performance in London class, called “The Lost Thing.” It’s based on the illustrated short story of the same name by Shaun Tan. After the film, we had an hour-long discussion about fairytales and what constitutes “children’s literature,” which was definitely a first in my experience with academia. You can watch the 15-minute, Oscar-winning film below.

If you know me, I’ve probably told you what I’m about to say; I’m of the opinion that there’s no age or checkpoint in life dictating when a person should graduate from reading children’s literature to adult literature, just like I don’t believe that there’s any shame in an adult reading so-called children’s literature. But it’s interesting that when we look at an illustrated book with a relatively simple narrative structure, there’s the assumption that the story is meant for kids, whereas when someone creates a painting or a sculpture or almost any other kind of art, we hardly ever classify it by its “appropriate” audience.

Shaun Tan wrote in his essay on picture books, “Simplicity certainly does not exclude sophistication or complexity; we inherently know that the truth is otherwise. ‘Art,’ as Einstein reminds us, ‘is the expression of the most profound thoughts in the simplest way.'”

What do you think? Should we bother classifying literature by audience at all? Should we consider who is the appropriate audience for all forms of art?

Who or what is the real lost thing?

*metaphysical eye twitch*

Samantha Chaffin

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6 thoughts on “Some firsts of life and a fairytale

  1. bri(arabella) says:

    oh my was this inspiring. I have read a little of your writing on Figment and now I must say you are an all around good writer. I am still debating if I should study abroad…this made my day. Congrats on the new writing position.

    • samchaffin says:

      Aw, thanks so much, Bri! 😀 That’s really sweet of you to say. I hope you do choose to study abroad; it’s really one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Seriously life-changing, not to mention eye-opening for me as a writer/student/human haha.

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