At the most recent Austin No Kidding! monthly supper, we were talking about all the terrible books we “had” to read in high school. I was amazed that this group of mostly well-read people had a lot of same opinions I did on this topic. One member brought up some terrible “work” that was used to teach symbolism.
Today, I was watching the last streamable episode of Weeds. The show is currently wrapping up Season 7 and this was the end of Season 5.
If you don’t want a spoiler, you should stop reading until past the line of =====.
Somewhere in Season 5, Uncle Andy calls Shane, the middle 14-year-old son a “dark little man”. Since Shane is the “good kid” in the family, this seemed odd and caught me off guard. The cliffhanger for Season 5 ended with a fight between Nancy and her husband’s campaign manager, Pilar. Nancy had arranged for Pilar to be killed, but the killer ratted to Pilar instead. Pilar stakes her ground with Nancy by threatening the lives of Nancy’s children by her first husband, calling them disposable. The next image we see is something smacking Pilar in the head. Hard. The camera turned to show us Shane, standing there with a croquet mallet, and then panned out from Pilar’s limp body floating in the pool, leaving us to believe she’s dead. Since I had to look up how to spell Pilar’s name, I see she was only in 5 episodes of the show, so I don’t expect her to make some miraculous recovery from that blow.
Dark indeed, little man. Dark indeed.
And the point of this recount: foreshadowing resolved in modern entertinment. I wonder why they don’t just show Weeds in high school English, instead of reading Lord of the Flies? 😉 j.k.
Mostly, I hated that we read so very much with some sick attempt to read everything under the sun. At one point in high school, we were reading 7–yes, seven–books at one time. That was one of times I was immensely grateful for Kristy N. and her parents’ pull with the district. She slammed her hand on her desk, said “no”, and chastised our teacher (a Texas teacher of the year, for crying out loud):
She said something like, “NO! We are reading seven books right now and five of them are for you. It’s too much, and we can’t keep up. We have six classes in addition to yours. You will not assign this book to us, now.” Man, I loved being in classes with her.
If we really needed to learn from all the stories, why didn’t we watch more books that were made into movies to make room for more reading? Why didn’t we ever read synopses of the “less important” books to get to the meat/point of it all?
I hated that we had to read so much “old” stuff. It was a big struggle to deal with characters with foreign names in multiple books at a time. Remembering dates/times/places for tests was a huge and unnecessary chore that didn’t enhance my learning. And, are “today’s” writers so terrible that we can’t read anything set in modern day? Did everything have to be about a world war, old/poor people, or sci fi? If we could read the rape scenes, adultery, and far too much violence toward animals, why couldn’t we read just plain horror/suspense once in a while? Or a happy love story? Why not, just once, have us read something the literature community considers “bad” so we can see why/how?
Case in point: the best score I ever got on any test from any novel was the one I didn’t read any of. I read the “novella” for children, studied the Cliff’s notes, and participated in all the discussion. Highest score for me ever…and the highest in the class: 94. #booyah
…and don’t even get me started on the whole banned book bullshit.
I wish I had kept a list of all the terrible books that were forced upon us and the lists everyone shared at dinner. We were pretty uniform in our love/hate lists.
- Lord of the Flies
- The Old Man and the Sea
- The Good Earth
- The Red Badge of Courage
- A Tale of Two Cities
- The Scarlett Letter
- All Quiet on the Western Front
- The Jungle
- The Grapes of Wrath
- Of Mice and Men
- Ethan Frome
I didn’t love or hate:
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
- Great Expectations
- The Odyssey
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
- Our Town
- Romeo & Juliet
- Fahrenheit 451
- Flowers for Algernon
- The Iliad
- A Separate Peace
- Death of a Salesman
- The Pearl
- Lamb to the Slaughter
I wish we’d read:
- Anything by Steven King.
- Anything set in present day.
- Anything about the Deep South.
- Stuff that happened in America.
- Stuff that ended happy.
I didn’t have time or energy to read for fun. I blame that same teacher (five books at one time? really?) for turning me off from reading. I hate that I don’t read more. I hate that she ruined this for me.
What did you have to read in high school or college that you hated? What did you love? I bet your list will be a ratio of at least 4:1. Our list was about 10:1
. I really did make an effort to read every book. I made it most of the way through most of them and all the way through some of them. The book I made the 94 on was one I didn’t even purchase or borrow.
 oh, that’s right. I had totally forgotten. There weren’t even enough copies of the book available several times. Mom and I wasted a lot of time driving around Paris trying to get the sometimes-no-longer-in-print (-cause-it-sucks) novels. Ridiculous.