Saturday, July 21

High School Selection

Ben, what a topic. And it's quite fitting, as I've also been giving some thought to what I read and learned as a little lady.

A quick side-note that Mike and I met in Judy McWhirter's English class. I hated him so much, because he would tease me mercilessly and tell me not to, "get my dander up." Just ridiculous.

Although my memory has been rendered practically null by a friend named pot, I can still catch the little brain glimmer when recalling my favorites. They include:
-As I Lay Dying
-Crime and Punishment
-Cat and Mouse
-A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
-Cat's Cradle
-Atlas Shrugged
-Giants in the Earth
-Norwegian Wood

All lovely. The pick of the litter for me was Joyce. It simply seemed like he could take the happy feelings of being a youngster and say them properly.

Not to be a grouch, but I also find it interesting to note those books that I thoroughly detested. Most came from 9th grade Advanced English with Mrs. Grace, who left in the middle of the year after a 'death threat.' She was almost 80 years old and I was left to deal with the infamous Boo Yeah all alone.
-Ender's Game
-David Copperfield
-The Chosen
-The Bean Trees
-The House of Mirth
-The Heart of the Matter

Graham Greene as a raving God-fearer broke my heart. Dickens and I will never get along, either.

So how about books that high schoolers should read?


Ben said...

My goodness, Mike still says that "dander" shit. He is incorrigible.

I think on the whole I prefer your reading list to mine. Although, in hindsight I am most pleased that my sophomore English teacher was fairly loathsome of Ayn Rand's work--better to have come to it later in life and been bothered by it than to have read it in high school, loved it, and later had the illusion destroyed. I really would have liked to have had the experience of reading some Faulkner, some Dostoevsky, some Joyce and Lolita in high school. I think in terms of what a high schooler should read those guys need to be near the top of the list. I didn't touch any of them until my second year of college.

I read The House of Mirth that same year. It will likely stand the test of time and remain my least favorite "classic" for all eternity. I hated that shit. No redeeming value.

I think Dickens is a fine example of a dude whose writing is very highly regarded (I enjoy what I've read myself) but probably not essential for a well-rounded high English education.

From what little I have read of Graham Greene's he strikes me as a writer whose work might best be enjoyed later on in life. I don't know why I say that, probably just because I wouldn't have been ready for him in high school. But that's no way to design a curriculum, is it? His books can be exciting and cinematic and I would imagine that for some high schoolers Greene might be an excellent gateway to further serious literature.

I'm a bit surprised, none of us seem to have been assigned Hemingway, Melville, Henry James or any "postmodern" authors.

To boom off on a tangent for a moment, high school English instruction seems to be so heavily geared towards the reading of novels. Do you guys ever wish there was more consumption of critical essays and lengthier non-fiction works? As far as I am concerned the tools you need for critical thought and utilitarian writing can be better learned by studying the essay rather than the novel. Now, I did study some essays in high school--for example, Emerson's Self-Reliance, as previously noted--but certainly the real bulk of the four years were spent visiting one important novel after another. Hmmmm, and I don't wish at all to diminish benefits of novel reading but perhaps a better balance than what I experienced is advisable.

I think as a long term project we should should together a Book-Loop approved high school English curriculum. No, I'm just kidding.

MJA said...

If only they had the time...

Maybe we should have school year-round? Or possibly a deep summer reading program, with no other subjects, required for all? That might be cool.

Here's one of the books I read in college: The Essentials of Soil Mechanics.

Just kidding. I didn't read a page!