Thursday, October 27, 2005

Catching up with the Boys

My tenth graders are reading A Separate Peace, and last week I read it for what I think was the second time. (If I have read it before, I didn't remember any of it.)

If you've ever read this famed coming-of-age novel about two friends at a private boys' boarding school during WWII, then you might appreciate this site.

The link above includes quotes from the book interspersed with pictures from Exeter, the prestigious school that Knowles attended and used as the model for Devon. I've had a copy since high school, but I don't think I ever actually finished it back then. We never had to read it for class, and I didn't appreciate it then since it was about boys (ew, gross). I wish I had. It's a beautiful story about friendship and betrayal at a school deeply affected by war, and it shows clearly that the enemy we are all fighting is really only ourselves.

I've also begun reading Chaim Potok's novel The Chosen. Interestingly, it, too, takes place during WWII. Sadly, it's also another high school staple that I never actually finished, but (for some reason) have retained a paperback copy of since my freshman year. I found a turned-down page last night somewhere in the first chapter.

It's sad how much good American fiction I've missed out on because I was so obsessed with Austen and other authors from across the Big Pond. Not that I think either is necessarily superior, but I've always been partial to Brit Lit, and Faulkner and Steinbeck and Cooper never really interested me. Somehow, from high school to undergrad and even up until last year in my graduate English classes, I just "skipped over" much of American lit. It wasn't until a seminar class my senior year at BSC devoted entirely to Hemingway and Fitzgerald that I began to appreciate that Yankees writers have something worthwhile to say. (I know, I know...I'm a sorry excuse for a high school English teacher. At least they didn't ask me to teach 11th Grade!) I'm slowly attempting to remedy my egregious defenciency in American classics. And I'm enjoying it immensely.

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