Friday, October 28, 2011
Punk everyone out the first day by calling The Road Cormac McCarthy for Dummies. "You didn't actually think we'd read an Oprah book in here, did you?"
The Border Trilogy. My favorite is The Crossing, but you need all three. All the Pretty Horses might attract female students to the class, which would be a necessity. An all-guys McCarthy class would consist of smatterings of sparse dialogue, a mysterious aroma of whiskey, a lot of whisker stroking, and everyone would smoke and look out the window for a long time.
Suttree. There's nothing like getting kicked out of your estranged son's funeral. Well, maybe waking crusted in your own vomit. Many of McCarthy's characters wake to find themselves crusted in various bodily fluids. Suggest that someone write a theme paper about it.
Blood Meridian. Suggest someone perform an interpretive dance inspired by The Judge. Give extra credit to the student with the largest scar. Challenge them to cut something's head off and bring it in for show and tell. Give vocabulary quizzes until someone cries.
No Country for Old Men. Spend an entire month making them read Yeats' A Vision even though it's not on the course syllabus. Whenever students complain stay very calm and unfold your pocket knife. Pick your fingernails and ask them if they'd like to file a complaint with the department chair. Deem at least one student "The Hunchback."
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
When teaching public high school has me down I fantasize about courses I'd like to teach given the ideal students, resources, and amount of time. I always feel kind of sleazy when I do this. I'm not sure why.
I've read a lot of good non-fiction lately, so I have been fantasizing about writing a non fiction course outline. The class would be designed around getting the students to find expression for their own stories. I once saw a cluster of video diaries that a teacher had inspired his students to create. These were all really cool and artsy and highlighted the constrictive nature of being human while offering glimmers of hope, so in my fantasy all of my students will create really arty video diaries.
The reading material is what got me thinking in the first place, so I might as well name drop of bunch of books I'll probably never get to teach.
Non-Fiction books about Work
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. I think this is a memoir. It is mostly about working as a chef. I'm not even sure if it would be ethical to teach this book, but it's my fantasy, so I guess I don't really care if it's ethical or not.
On Writing by Stephen King. After listening to this in my car a couple dozen times over the past ten years I can recite entire passages from memory. The narrative has so permeated my mind that I've tried to imitate it in writing... without really knowing I was trying. Scary.
Working by Studs Terkel. I love this book. It is one of the great un-hailed masterpieces of its day. And in my fantasy we'd read ALL of it. Not just the interview with the prostitute.
Non-Fiction about Coming of Age
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. I feel about Angela's Ashes the way young Frank feels about Shakespeare: reading passages out loud is like having rubies in your mouth.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls . This one is still fresh in my mind as I finished it not three days ago. It would, I think, begin to round out the "growing up" section of the course with a female voice. Plus it's a hell of a read.
Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski. Again, I know of no one with the cojones to teach Bukowski. In my fantasy, I have the cojones. Besides, this book is a great memoir. It's kind of heartbreaking while managing to be funnier than hell.
Non-Fiction on Old Age
A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. One of my proudest achievements in life is having read all of Hemingway. This one is unique, and a lot of fun to picture the big guy doing his thing. It is retrospective, hence the old age thing.
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. If you think it's Lifetime movie material you're also one of those people who think Harry Potter is just for kids and I don't want you in my class anyway.
Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure by SMITH magazine. These are like popcorn, okay?
I'll supplement the reading with in-class writing drills and lengthier out of class writing assignments. There would be a workshop or two.
Anyway this is just a draft that I will probably obsessively come back and edit (12-4-11...there are probably errors regardless), like all of my posts, so if you're pissed I didn't mention your favorite book, it's probably because I haven't read it. Drop me a line.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Things I Know:
Yeungling tasted better when I thought they didn't want to give it to us because of the Browns / Steelers rivalry.
Dead leaves smell better than live ones.
Cats demand the perfect amount of attention from me.
Old stuff, generally, is cooler than new stuff.