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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Literature: An Open Letter to my various English Curriculum Books

Dear various English Curriculum books, 

Today was my final English exam. 
(one down, four to go!) 

It made me think of how many of you I have read over the years. 
We have had quite a turbulent, long-winded relationship. I'm sorry, but there were so many of you I reviled. You probably can't help it that you wind up on school book lists. It's not your fault. Here you are subject to the harsh criticism of moody teenage students. But you usually deserve it. 
Teachers seem to love those of you that are riddled with Wednesday Addams-like adolescent angst, 'coming of age' novels that involve many (many) curse words which substitute for actual proper English. 

You were not fun. (okay, I admit it was a little funny when the teacher tried to read you during out-loud reading time). 

But sometimes, among the deluge, there was a gem. 
I would raise you to the roof, all Lion King-esque: 
You made English class what it was. Reading you was no longer a chore. 

Not to play favourites, but here is a list of you who I loved most of all (I am actually playing favourites). 

To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee
Obvs. A pure classic. Not to the dismay of my class, however:
'This book is so old'
' What kind of a name is 'Atticus?' 
' Is Scout a boy??' 
' Is this even in English?' 
Oh, you poor, poor souls. If you can't understand TKAM then I don't know how you will ever see the beauty and brilliance in authors like Jane Austen. I loved you, Mockingbird. 
There are so many life-worthy quotes that come from you: 
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” 

The Quiet American- Graham Greene 
I've done a post about you before. That's because you are fascinatingly brilliant. 
You make people question their humanity. This is pretty heavy for a class book.
Perhaps that's why I liked you so much. You are never boring. I read you five times in one year. 
Thank you for being so intriguing.

Girl With A Pearl Earring- Tracy Chevalier 
Surprisingly, I was the only student (the teacher loved it) who genuinely enjoyed you. 
And this wasn't just because Colin Firth played Vermeer in the movie adaptation of you (mostly). 
I looked at the front cover and I was hooked (yeah yeah, don't judge a book by its cover... then why do we have cover designers? I'm shallow. I like pretty pictures.)  This book stemmed a love that is still going for classical art and art history. I cannot look at this painting without it completely hypnotizing me and drawing me in. Tracy Chevalier thought the same, that's why she created a whole novel from the feeling the painting gave her when she looked at it. 
Seriously: just look at it. 

The Reluctant Fundamentalist- Mohsin Hamid 
You little trickster, you. Every time I read you I miss something and and also find something. Then I have to read you all over again. It's a viscous cycle. But I forgive you this, because you are so interesting. Your allegory's are second to none. Your narrative structure is one of the strangest and best I've ever read. You make me think. You are so multifaceted it's insane. I will read you always, each time looking for something new and inevitably finding it. 

So there you go, English Curriculum Books,
I have loved you and I have hated you. 
I liked some of you more than others. 
I even read some of you in my sacred place of reading: the bath. Seriously, the bath is usually reserved for Charlotte Bronte and the like. So well done, I commend you. 

Thanks for expanding my horizons. 


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