Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer 2012 Reading List

I wish I could remember the name of the instructor I had for my Survey of American Literature course at Metro State. It was the fall of 1996. I was a young man then. What I remember of the course is this: the ratio of female to male students was amazing. By amazing, I mean that out of the twenty of us, three were male. This was how I would have wanted to see the whole world at that stage of my life. I had just turned twenty-four; you can imagine my mindset.

There was something else that was odd about that class. There were a few literature majors in that twenty. Almost all of the students were education majors. And of the lit majors, I recall being the only writer.

One day we were discussing John Steinbeck's “The Chrysanthemums.” Then, as now, I greatly admire John Steinbeck. The discussion was moving to a very mid-1990s, feminist slant. It was an interesting argument, this I remember. When it came my turn to speak, I simply mentioned that the flowers, the scissors and the roles of the characters really had very little to do with the climate of the story. The story was not allegory for allegory sake. The words are a record of California, dead days as a comparison of the Ford and the burro drawn wagon. And if anything, the story is about the evolution of life in the California countryside. I was met with angry words, my classmates thought I was diminishing important social observations and overlooking a level of misogynistic preludes in the text. When I furthered verbalized my thoughts, I came to this: “John Steinbeck is probably the greatest writer that America has ever had.” Before I was to be eaten alive, our instructor (I wish I could remember her name) saved me. She said: “Anthony comes from a different world view. Anthony is a writer and Steinbeck is a writer's writer.” And with that, it ended.

When it came time in that survey course for Henry James I learned to keep my mouth shut. Henry James was popular with my classmates. I hated having to read it. In fact, I learned to hate Henry James. In a private conference with the instructor, I voiced my venomous opinion about this particular writer. All she said was this, “Anthony, wait until you're forty to read James. I bet it won't make much sense to you until your'e forty.” Okay, so she released me from further reading of Henry James for years. I would not be required to read any more Henry James for fourteen years.

I turn forty in August.

Henry James? Well, if anything, it's time.

As the summer reading list develops, I know I must have some diversion from some Henry James, but I know I have to keep to the agreement made so many years ago. So here it is:

Henry James The Beast in the Jungle
Kazuo Ishiguro The Remains of the Day
Antonio Skarmeta The Postman
Pablo Neruda Poetry
Lemony Snicket (don't laugh, I love it)
Henry James The Turn of the Screw
Kazuo Ishiguro A Pale View of Hills

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