Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Weak One

A new school year is well underway, and how many times have you spent precious time absorbing the buzz on a book, picked it up only to find nothing there for you? I can't say what makes good reading for me these days, and I'm equally puzzled when it comes to picking novels to teach to my students. I have tried to digest many books lately that I can only seem to pick at. Ulysses is one of them, but I don't feel bad about it: everyone has trouble with that one, right? I even went as far as to seek council, which is for me, on-line. I found websites and projects that are very helpful, but in their own way, discouraging. I can't help but to listen to the little voice in my head pointing out how all of these people have devoted significant portions of their lives to this book, so why should I? What could I possibly find there? Ludicrous, right? So, I forgive myself for procrastinating on the mega-books in my life, but I started reading The Passage on my kindle and, four or five chapters in, just don't care about it anymore. This is a book that's supposed to hold wide appeal: vampires, viruses, what more could I ask for? The writing is very good. The story should be interesting. So why can't I get into it?

Here are some other books I've started in the last year or so and have yet to finish: Tree of Smoke, Suttree, Maiden Voyage, Under the Dome, Hunger, Journey to the End of the Night, Death on the Installment Plan, Silas Marner... and these are just to name a few. Sometimes I wonder if I've acquired literary ADD. IN the tradition of such disorders, I next wonder who or what I should blame: all that flash fiction? cable television? My teachers? My family?

Maybe I'm just being a lazy slob? I'm capable of finishing a book. Those I've enjoyed the most over the past few years have been: Islands in the Stream, Peter Camanzind, Narcissus and Goldmund, The Man Who Owned Vermont, Lisey's Story, Duma Key, Cloud Atlas, Goodbye Columbus, and others.

I'm re-reading Slaughterhouse Five right now. The first time, I have to admit, I was like "what's all the hype about?" Then again, I was a pimple-studded virgin that liked hard science fiction and played dungeons and dragons. Now it makes total sense that the aliens in the book are just kind of an excuse to tell a fractured narrative. Awesome from a writer's perspective, lame crap from a pimple-studded virgin's. That being said, I can't imagine teaching that book with much success. I just don't know. I enjoyed teaching The Road last year. I have given thought to teaching The Crossing by McCarthy as well. What kind of books do young adults need to read? Please don't say Silas Marner. Please?


Chris said...

Have you heard of Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom? Being a young adult myself, I would definitely recommend picking up a copy and giving it a look. It's an absolutely amazing story, and you'd probably be able to make something happen with it as far as teaching it goes.

John said...

You're probably one of a handful of people on this earth that could actually get me to read a book called Tuesdays with Morrie. I will put it on my list, sir.

Right now I'm loving The Other by David Guterson. Maybe my slump has ended?

Chris said...

We can only hope, right? I actually hadn't been reading at all, for pretty much the entirety of summer break. Not usual for me, but there were reasons. *queue mysterious jazz music*

Recently however I've been charging through The Godfather by Mario Puzo like it might be the last book I'll ever see. Which is actually a step out of my normal literary comfort-zone, although unlike my summer reading drought I think this new-found interest in gangster stories is a pretty positive deviation.