Monster Hunter Nation

Correia on the Classics

I was surfing on We The Armed (which believe it or not, has a great creative writing section for all of you aspiring writers looking for a place to post samples to get feedback) and I came across this thread:

http://wethearmed.com/index.php/topic,12410.0.html  called Ever read a “must read” just to go “And”?

It was about how some books that are “classics” really aren’t that special, or even good. I wasn’t surprised to see a bunch of smart, educated, intelligent folks chime in about some of the awful trash that they were forced to read when they were in high school. I’ve got pretty strong opinions on this and it seems that I’m not alone. I quickly posted the following rant (edited here because I cranked this out in 3 minutes and can’t spell) :

Don’t get me started on high school English. The garbage that gets force fed to kids in the guise of education is why so many Americans do not read. We beat it out of them. We club them over the head with boring tripe that is only a classic because some professor declared it to be a classic a hundred years ago. We force them to read these things, until in their mind reading equals tedium, and then we’re shocked when as a nation we don’t read as much.  FRIGGIN’ DUH! You ignorant literati sluts! You are too busy giving each other awards to realize that nobody reads your nonsense.

True story. A friend of mine is a successful fantasy novelist. He was asked to speak to a creative writing class about his first book. The teacher asked him what it “meant.” He gave her the plot synopsis. No. What does it “mean”? It is a fantasy, about magic, and– NO. What is the real “meaning”?  You see, college English is the only place where Freudian psychology is still legitimate. Everything has to have a deeper meaning. A book just can’t be a story. It has to be an analogy for some social commentary. And heaven help us if it wasn’t, because then all those no-talent hack English professors wouldn’t be able to write 1,000 page commentaries on what the whale in Moby Dick REALLY represented.

I’m a professional writer. I’ve made a career out of it more than 99.9% of the English majors in the US will. Because what they are being taught is mostly crap. And. They. Just. Don’t. Get. It.  The education establishment hates people like me. We’re pulp. We’re trash. And at the end of the day, I will have one thousand times the readership of the most prestigious literary journal.

If I wanted to win some awards, I’d remove the humor, put in more bleakness, despair, depression, and then maybe have somebody get raped, and then have a thinly veiled reference to the evils of something liberals hate. Boom. I get an award. If I’m going for a sci-fi award instead, I’ll do that, only I’ll have a robot get raped. Everybody cries. The end. I get an award and sell fifteen whole copies.

And some of these books mentioned here really are good, but they shouldn’t be FORCED onto fourteen year olds! Pick books that these kids will actually, I don’t know, something crazy… ENJOY?

Worst book for me was the Scarlet Letter. I almost became illiterate after being forced to read that piece of crap. Suffer. Suffer. Suffer. More suffering. Oooh, look, suffering. Tedium. Bored. Suffer. Oh, now let’s make her horrible child a bad analogy. Didn’t see that coming. Oh, please is it almost over? I can barely read through the tears of boredom. Please let it be over soon. Suffer. Whine. Suffer. Everybody dies. The End.

#

Okay. So that was the rant. Yep, I was sitting in my angry chair on that one.

Afterwards, I got to thinking about it, and I want to address this some more on my blog because I’ve been thinking about this topic, of what is literary and respectable and wins awards and gets critical acclaim but nobody actually reads, versus the kind of stuff that I write that is wildly popular and makes piles of money but gets sneered at by the literati elite. This also relates directly to the crap that is foisted on kids in school in the guise of an English education.

Oh, but Correia, we need to expose our kids to the classics of literature! Okay, sure. What makes some book a classic?

Uh… It just is?

Why is the Scarlet Letter a classic? Reading it gives you a sensation similar to repeatedly giving yourself paper cuts across the cornea. Let me ruin it for you. Spoiler alert. A woman has to wear a big read A. People suffer. All the light will flee your soul. Puritans are jerks. Yet, it is a classic because at some point in time, some dude with a doctorate in English proclaimed it to be a classic.

One definition says that these are pivotal or influential works that influenced society… Uh huh… Pivotal because an English professor said so. If being influential was the official definition for a classic then my kids would have to read the screenplay for Star Wars in school, and my grandchildren will have to read the collected works of Twilight.

Maybe we should have our kids read books that are award winning! Well, except that just because a book won an award doesn’t mean that it is good either. (though many people can’t seem to make that distinction).  Literary awards are usually circle jerks of like-minded people giving each other awards. It doesn’t matter how good or popular a book is, if it doesn’t fit the mold of what that group wants, it doesn’t get an award. And in some cases, it doesn’t matter how bad a book is, because if it fits the criteria or some tiny group of judges is fond of it, it wins.

I remember getting in trouble in high school English class because I had a disdain for “good books”. I was too busy reading awesome DragonLance novels to really give a flip about James Joyce. (who just goes to show that if you want to sell a bunch of books, you just need to get banned somewhere!)

Let me explain what I was like at the time. I was probably the most well read kid in school. I lived way out in the boondocks, was the first one picked up in the morning, and spent close to three hours a day on the bus reading a novel. I had read every single book (not an exaggeration) in the tiny El Nido public library before I ever went to high school. I had read something like 90 Louis L’amour novels. My favorite book in 6th grade was Dune. I was that kid.

Yet, despite the fact that I read way more than most adults, I got terrible grades in English. I had a finely tuned BS detector at an early age. Since I was extraordinarily well read for a fourteen year old, I already had a grasp on what a ‘good’ story was. I recognized that most of the books we were being forced to read were just plain boring, and then we were expected to read these terribly dull books and discuss them for like a month! Sorry, there just isn’t that much to talk about. I would normally read the book in a day, and then by the time the rest of the class was done reading The Great Gatsby and discussing the “hidden” symbolism of a bunch of hedonist socialites and their tedious existence, I’d have read ten other more enjoyable books.

The one good thing about being forced to read The Great Gatsby was that I discovered Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft afterwards because I figured that not everybody from that time frame could have been that incredibly annoying.

My sophomore English teacher dismissed those works as “pulp” not “literature”. Really? Because who has influenced more people in succeeding generations? Cthulu or Gatsby? My money is on the big squid.

So, at the end of my education, I hadn’t done most of the assignments, thought most of my teachers were dolts, lost all respect for academia, got mediocre grades, and slept through class. I did everything absolutely wrong according to my teachers, yet, I’ve gone on to read thousands of books and have a successful writing career despite teachers doing their best to make me despise the written word. Yay, school!

You want to get kids in high school to like reading? Don’t force them to read the same old tired crap. It isn’t educational just because it was written by a sexually-frustrated Victorian woman. Let them read other things. Let them read modern books. Let them read from different genres. Give them a giant list to chose from. News flash, not everybody likes the same thing. I know that is incredibly difficult for academics to swallow, but it is true.  

Is the purpose of a education to teach you to think, or is it to check a box saying you read X number of approved books? If the purpose is to check a box, then congrats most teachers. You win. Sure, these kids grow up and hate reading for the rest of their lives, but whatever. You checked that box real good.

I loved Don Quixote. I enjoyed Silas Marner. Count of Monte Cristo is bad ass. I like a lot of Shakespeare, with MacBeth being my favorite. Those are classics by most accounts… And not a single one of them was enjoyed because of an English class. Odds are that if I’d been forced to read any of those in English class, then months of discussing the hidden themes (that may or may not have been there) and then getting tested on it would’ve beaten any enjoyment right out of those works.

I’ve been surprised how many e-mails I’ve gotten in the last couple of years from mothers telling me how excited they are that their kids liked my books. It is usually some variation of “Johnny hates to read, but he read your book in three days! He’s never liked a book before.” Well, that’s probably because the other books Johnny has been exposed to just aren’t interesting to him.

Teachers, there’s nothing wrong with that! Some people hate fantasy but love thrillers. Some people have an affinity for romance novels but would never touch a western. Let them find their niche. Believe me, once reading becomes a habit, they will expand into other things… But nobody, and I mean nobody, likes bullshit written by angsty whiners about their laudanum fueled binges of pathetic boredom. Even the literary geniuses at the finest universities foisting this crap on us only skim it. They say the love it, but they lie. They just read the Cliff Notes to impress chicks from the Art Department.

I’m not saying that my work is a classic. Heck no. By no means. I’m proud to be a pulp writer. I don’t write books with themes or hidden meanings. A gun is a gun and werewolves are not a symbol of feminist liberation. Most normal writers are in the same boat. We don’t have literati pretensions of smug superiority. We write to get paid, and the more entertaining we are, the more we get paid.  

Now, if you don’t want to be one of those boring old writers that make a living off this stuff, and instead you are in this for the “art” and to win prestigious literary awards, let me give you some helpful hints on things you need to put into your book to get awards. The more the better.

  1. Make it dreary and impossible to understand. The more befuddling the better.
  2. Don’t resolve anything. Resolutions are so bourgeois.
  3. Somebody has to get raped. If it is sci-fi, rape a robot.
  4. Suicide is good too.
  5. Humor is not allowed, unless it is ironic hipster humor that mocks the establishment.
  6. If there is an antagonist, make him a thinly veiled version of Dick Cheney.
  7. Right-wing dystopia OR evil all-controlling religion. (bonus points for both!)
  8. Gay cowboys eating pudding.
  9. Make every single character unlikable. If you accidentally create a likable character, see #3 or #4.
  10. Moral compasses are so passé. Have your protagonist sexually assault a horse or something.
  11. Drug abuse is fun for the whole family. Somebody better be huffing paint.
  12. Global warming. Award juries love dying polar bears.

Seven or more gets you a Pulitzer. Get 10 and I guarantee you’ll win the Nobel prize for literature. All 12 might just get you on Oprah.

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208 Comments on "Correia on the Classics"

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Hardware
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Hardware
5 years 6 months ago

I think Vonnegut went 12 for 12 on your list.

Kristophr
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2 years 6 months ago

Larry … you need to adopt a pseudonym, and write the 12 for 12 book. Make it a parody of every deadly dreary message novel out there, and put in it only things the SFWA retards like. Then self publish it on Amazon.

Then submit it via an “agent” to all these panels.

See how many awards it wins.

Everett
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Everett
4 months 23 days ago
Thank you, Larry for giving me hours of my life back. My wife and I have had this discussion many times. Slaughterhouse-Five and Catcher in the Rye, we both read them in high school. We have always felt that we need to re-read them as an adult. At 15 or 16, we had no clue what either meant. Maybe we needed more life experience to understand. However, the only thing more life experience does is make blurry-eyed college liberals into conservatives. Thanks for answering this conundrum. I still want to punch that sniveling b^&*ch Holden Caulfield in the face.
Timothy Covington
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5 years 6 months ago

Larry, it sounds like you and I were the same kid. The exception being, I learned how to regurgitate whatever the teacher wanted. Luckily, I learned a love of reading from my parents, who let me read whatever I wanted. I think the 2 keys to getting kids to love reading is:
1. Let them read what they want.
2. Set a good example for them by reading.

Garry M
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Garry M
5 years 6 months ago
Right on Tim. After a very slow start with reading, I was reading Tom Clancy when I was in Junior High. Why? Because I enjoyed reading it. Most of my vocabulary and writing skills have come from the thousands of books (many in the SciFi/Fantasy genres) that I’ve read over the years. I too found that professors in College wanted you to regurgitate what they told you to regurgitate. One History prof even told us that if he didn’t say it, or it wasn’t in the assigned reading, we weren’t allowed to use it for tests (and he assigned essay… Read more »
Martine
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Martine
5 years 16 days ago

Are all of Larrys kids boys? Remember there are girl students. None of whom will enjoy Dune or Dragon Lance. Not every boy is geeky. Some like sports and not elves or guns. Girls LOVE Jane Austen. They do not like sci fi. They like romance and feelings. You act like all children are cut from the same cloth. And are all male.

mamapajamas
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5 years 14 days ago
Excuse me? I don’t think so, Martine! I couldn’t tolerate Jane Austen or romantic stories any more than a boy could. 🙂 “Whithering Heights” (yes I misspelled that on purpose!) put me to sleep. I never did finish it. However, I HAD already read both the Illiad and the Odyssey before I started high school. 🙂 Why? Because I liked OLD stuff, ancient history, mythology, folk tales. And, yes, I ADORE modern science fiction– as long as they don’t try to prostheletize me with the overly worn stories of the super-alien who comes to earth to teach us to all… Read more »
mamapajamas
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5 years 14 days ago

Ooops… “prostheletize”=PROSELYTIZE. Don’t ask where I got that spelling.

As for the Illiad and Odyssey, I also would never expect anyone else to get as excited as I did about British attempts to translate Greek poetry into something middlin’ understandable as “poetry”. It isn’t the beauty of the phrase, which is the translator’s, it’s the topic being discussed.

Robert
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Robert
3 years 10 months ago

need to watch generalizations my wife very female reads every thing I do has a heck of a collection of dragonlance books I am not too enthrall with them she has read all of dune and love Larry’s mhi books so watch the slippery slope

Kate
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Kate
3 years 2 months ago
I just found this blog so I am posting years late – I am a girl! And I love Larry’s books. Well does 32 count as a girl? I was reading Dragon Lance, Forgotten Realms, and all kinds of other SciFi before I was 13. The first books I ever read were Louis L’amour novels. (followed by Lenard B. Scott; don’t know why) I did not like then, and do not like now; Jane Austen. I love George R.R. Martin. I despise romance novels, the Twilight series needs to be killed with fire. Remember that not all girls are cut… Read more »
Tanner Bowen
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2 years 6 months ago

Your last two sentences are mildly hypocritical. Not every girl loves Jane Austen. However, I’m a guy and I actually like it. I’m actually that one guy in the room who defends the merits of Pride and Prejudice. On the contrary, I might actually know more female who are into Scifi than guys. The general sentiment of your argument is felt though and actually Correia covers it when he says let people read what they want to read. He simply uses himself and his tastes as a useful example.

DonM
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DonM
2 years 3 months ago

If you think girls don’t like Dune or Dragon Lance you might be Sexist. If you think boys can’t like Jane Austen, you might be Sexist. Writers don’t have to write for everyone. They just have to write for enough people to make money for their publishers.

DingDongDaddy77
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DingDongDaddy77
10 months 16 days ago

Ooooo. Sexism. How shocking.

Lauren
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2 years 2 months ago

Uh…did we grow up in the same world? I am female. I hated Jane Austen. I love sci-fi. Not every girl likes pink. Some like sports, or elves, or guns. You act like girls are all but from the same cloth. And yet, we’re both female. Go figure.

CombatMissionary
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CombatMissionary
2 years 2 months ago

One of the first sets of books I got into after my combat tour in Afghanistan was Chronicles of the Black Company. Fantastic stuff! Then I got into MHI. I grew up on Louis L’Amour. And yet, somehow… I liked Pride and Prejudice. Emma, not so much. I guess it takes all kinds.
Oh, and my girls? Into MMA, archery, shooting bb guns and reading Little House on the Prairie. If my guess is right, they’ll be fairly girly like their mom. But if the boys mess with them, they’ll quickly end up with broken collarbones and in a carotid restraint.

Stormy
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Stormy
2 months 2 days ago
It’s kind of laughable that you berate Larry for “acting like all children are cut from the same cloth”, while simultaneously asserting that “none” of the the girl students will like Dune or Dragonlance. I’m female. While I vastly preferred hard Sci Fi such as Dune to fantasy such as Dragonlance, I thoroughly enjoyed both from about age 10 on. My other favourite genre was, I thought, westerns…but it turned out to actually be westerns by Louis L’Amour. Other western authors didn’t click in the quite the same way. Jane Austen is fine, but doesn’t even begin to approach the… Read more »
warpcordova
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warpcordova
5 years 6 months ago

I started laughing and chuckling about the list, Larry, until I read #3. Then I muttered “Shit” and made a mental note for you to skip over a scene in the book.

Nick Sharps
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Nick Sharps
5 years 6 months ago
I’ve always done well in English class but I never read any of the crap we were given. Last year I was assigned Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Cool! Murderous rampaging monster! Not. Frankenstein may have been the first “sparkly vampire.” That book sucked, along with most of the other garbage dumped on us. As for Dune? I enjoyed it while reading it until I got to the end and realized that nothing had really happened, we’d all just been told it happened. As cool as the fremen and sardaukar were supposed to be we never really got to see them in… Read more »
John in KS
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John in KS
5 years 6 months ago

I am SO glad to know that I’m not the only person who read “Dragonlance” books in high school.

Oh, and I loved “Dune” too!

This was a very entertaining and, for me, retrospective post – thanks Larry!

Tam
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5 years 6 months ago

As I’ve said elsewhere:

Look, if I want to read about failed relationships, career problems, family struggles, and substance abuse, I’ll write a friggin’ diary. The characters in the books I like to read have problems, too, but they usually solve them with laser beams or tactical nuclear warheads. I read these books because I wish I could solve my problems that way, too. This is called “escapism”, and is why most folks seek entertainment in the first place.

skippy
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skippy
5 years 6 months ago
Robb Allen
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5 years 6 months ago
One of the things I’ve felt bad about is that I’ve never been well read. As a child, I LOVED to read and would devour books (my oldest is like that now). Then, I’m sure it had something to do with public school requiring I read X,Y, & Z that I lost my taste for it and quit. Now as a fully grown child in an adults body, I’m attempting to catch up. I started with Moby Dick and stopped when phrases like “thar tweedlestump hivven the mistmast like wintsails on the norwallin’ breeze” kept popping up and my brain… Read more »
Joseph Capdepon II
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Joseph Capdepon II
5 years 6 months ago

I have to agree there Robb, the book Bond does kick ass. I think the newer Bond movies are more true to the literary version of Bond, the Daniel Craig Bond that is. I just finished Moonraker and boy are the book and the movie two different things.

Tam
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5 years 6 months ago

Dang skippy.

Machine guns and dead Nazis works as good in print as it does on the screen.

Steve
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Steve
5 years 6 months ago

Holmes is probably what got me started. I just re-read the complete collected works a few months ago. That’s a fat book!

I remember reading Shelley’s Frankenstein and being surprised how very different it was from what Hollywood had made. Totally different story. I liked it.

Rob
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Rob
5 years 6 months ago

Moby Dick is the only book I’ve ever picked up and not finished. I even finished the Great fucking Gatsby all the way through (by the way, Larry, that was the best summation of The Great Gatsby I’ve ever read), but not Moby Dick.

I think it was the tedious amateur biological sidetracks Melville would lapse into every dozen pages. I am told that this was the style at the time, but it creates a great big speed-bump topped with
a pile of steaming feces in the story arc that is hard to get over.

boballab
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5 years 6 months ago

I’m the guy in ninth grade that told his English teacher that the only one obsessing on that damm WHALE was him and all Ahab wanted was a damm paycheck for bringing the oil in from the carcass, since that was the whole point in catching them.

NB
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NB
5 years 6 months ago
I agree with you on Melville. I hold up any high school student being forced to read his books as a crime against humanity. In high school I wrote a 1000 word essay on Billy Budd stating, in short, that copying the Christ story and simply changing to setting to a 19th century British warship was , except for some allusions to homosexuality, the most unoriginal feat of writing in the history of the written word. I also noted that much of nautical terminology was incorrect (I’m a big naval history buff) showing that Melville was too lazy to even… Read more »
Geodkyt
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Geodkyt
5 years 6 months ago
NB, Junior year of public high high school. AP English, 2nd period. I’d finished the assigned book a week or so earlier, while veryone else was limping their way through it (I forget what, one of those horribly emo “proto-feminist” Regency novels by a Bronte sister, where the writer was paid by the pound). We still had a nother week to finish it before beginning the necropsy the following Monday. So, I was quietly in my desk, reading something I wanted to (“The Fountainhead” — figured I ought to be to properly read, but God, I hated the characters —… Read more »
NB
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NB
5 years 6 months ago
Geo, That is awesome. I don’t think Alabama public schools have such a position “Curriculum Coordinator”. Drunk,fornicators, and dunces; we have plenty of those I’ve never understood why teachers get so angry when students are ahead in that particular class and choose to do something like read a book. I was a smart (31 ACT, 800 SAT verbal, 2.4 GPA LOL) but unmotivated through school. I mainly did just enough to keep the teacher from bugging me. If they did decide that they were “going to make me realize my potential” I usually turned every lesson into an argument. American… Read more »
Stormy
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Stormy
2 months 2 days ago

I know this comment thread is really old, but I had to reply to this. I’ve failed to finish maybe three books in my life. But, I’ve done so with Moby Dick multiple times. I kept thinking it *must* get better. It had to be better read than I was getting out of it. Yeah – last time I tried was my fourth attempt. It was about 10 years ago. I’m not giving it another shot.

theUnpaidBill
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theUnpaidBill
5 years 6 months ago

I think I may have hurt something from laughing.

Well played sir! You hit it out of the park!

DonM
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DonM
2 years 3 months ago

I agree that “classics” turn kids off from reading. They are supposed to. You don’t want proles to read, you want them to work, to live by the bell, and to be happy to do what they are told. Reading leads to thinking. Can’t have that.

Anthony
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5 years 6 months ago

Homeschool. Say it with me folks.

Francesca
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Francesca
4 years 6 days ago

Haha, I was homeschooled from 3rd grade on because we moved in the middle of a school year and then begged our parents to continue even after we settled in the new place. Top 2 favorite things about it:
1. More time to read.
2. Better socialization (and we had a LOT because our parents were paranoid about us not getting enough), because we were engaged in positive, productive extra-curricular group environments rather than a stifling atmosphere of kids who are frustrated and do not want to be there.

Clint Overland
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Clint Overland
5 years 6 months ago
My dad would put us to bed with Conan and Tarzan, Tales of Middle Earth and of Asgard. As I grew older I learned to read and enjoy for myself all of the pupls and other forms of literature. By the time I was twn I had read every thing by Lamour, Howard, Dumas, Lovecraft, Poe and Tollkein. I did the same with my kids , reading to them every noght, sharing stories around a campfire. Spending time with them talking about what they had read and what they got out of the book. I coulndt agree with you more… Read more »
NB
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NB
5 years 6 months ago

I’m the same. My earliest memory of my Dad was him reading Tolkein to me at night.

I owe Mr Tolkein and Edgar Rice Burroughs a great debt of gratitude for teaching me to love books.

perlhaqr
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perlhaqr
5 years 6 months ago
I was too busy reading awesome DragonLance novels to really give a flip about James Joyce. *high five* Yeah, me too. Except Shakespeare. I actually really liked Shakespeare in high school. (Still do.) Of course, my English classes generally did their damnedest to wring any possible joy out of The Bard, so I mostly ended up liking Shakespeare despite being assigned it as reading material. Also, so RTWT on The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby, The Sound and the Fury (actually, that one might be good now that I’m 34, but at 16 it was like chewing glass) and, dear… Read more »
STW
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STW
5 years 6 months ago
I count myself lucky that I never had to read most of the books most people seemed to have read in high school. Occasionally, I pull out one of the every-one-has-to-read books to see what all the fuss is about. I read The Scarlet Letter last year, almost 40 years after high school, while working my way through The Library of America volume of Hawthorne’s novels. At least I’ll now understand the allusions people make to the book. I may never finish The House of Seven Gables. Sometimes I make a great discovery and wonder why I hadn’t done this… Read more »
Lori
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Lori
5 years 6 months ago
Wow. I am a little hurt, I must say. You might remember me from your old ward, Larry, and from all the positive and supportive comments I have been leaving in support of your books and career and AWESOME stories. But, in case you don’t, let me re-introduce myself: Lori R, ignorant English major literati slut who loves a good story, adores Sherlock Holmes, Louis L’Amour, Agatha Christie, Clive Cussler, H.P. Lovecraft AND Jane Eyre. Flexible minds, remember? I’m wounded by your attack, Larry. I am PROUD of my diversity of taste and curiosity, and that includes trying to find… Read more »
Wesley Nichols
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4 years 5 months ago

Your mind might need some stretching. It seems a little stiff.

Michael Z. Williamson
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

I wrote a book with a right wing dystopia, and it sold well, but did not win any awards.

That’s because the modern “liberal” thinks of an actual right wing dystopia as a wank fantasy society, and I blew it up.

Ungrateful ingrates.

BTW, the Pulitzer is for journalism, but you’re spot on the others.

Chris Upchurch
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5 years 6 months ago

“BTW, the Pulitzer is for journalism”

The Pulitzer prize isn’t just for journalism. In addition to the journalism prizes, they also give out Pulitzers in fiction, drama, history, biography, poetry and general non-fiction.

Britt
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Britt
5 years 6 months ago
Are there going to be anymore Freehold War books? I know you kind of covered the whole thing in Freehold and The Weapon, but I’d love to see more of Grainne and UN Earth. I enjoyed Contact with Chaos, to an extent, but there was a dearth of swords and kinetic kill weapons dropped from orbit. Love the Ripple Creek series too. So yeah, wrtie me another Freehold and another Ripple Creek, along with some Posleen stuff, because I liked The Hero, even if it’s been ruled non-canon. So yeah 3 new books ASAP. No problem at all, right? If… Read more »
Michael Z. Williamson
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

I will go further: Catcher in the Rye is utter shit, and anyone who likes it should be institutionalized before they kill someone relevant, like a rock star.

I did an analysis of The Highwayman. Her arms are bound behind her, a Brown Bess musket is under her breast, measuring 46″ from muzzle to trigger, but proto-emo bitch is able to reach the trigger. She must be an orangutan.

Raptor
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Yeah, I loved The Highwayman when I first read it (still like it), but I was never able to figure out how exactly she was able to fire the musket. Heck, the very first version I read was illustrated (I was maybe 6 at the time), and the picture only made it more confusing!

Tannim111
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Tannim111
5 years 6 months ago

Maybe she got it with her toe?

CarryingColoradan
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CarryingColoradan
5 years 6 months ago
Holy cow, I couldn’t agree more! I just fail to understand people who think Holden Caulfield is anything other than a whiny little snot who needs to have some reality slapped into his self-centered noggin. “Oooh, he’s gloomy and cusses a lot! He must be a literary hero!” In my 30s, when I had a long daily commute on the bus, I slogged my way through Great Expectations, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and four or five others I can’t recall right at the moment. Hunchback was probably the best of the bunch, but geez was it verbose! It completely… Read more »
Mike
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Mike
5 years 6 months ago

I actually love Les Mis, but it takes a lot of patience.

NB
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NB
5 years 6 months ago

I read that stupid book because a couple of my wannabee intellectual/adolescent angst obsessing friends told me how great it was. I thought it was stupid and pointless. The only person I wanted to kill after reading it was JD Salenger.

Arondell
Guest
Arondell
5 years 6 months ago

I think your being a bit harsh on the science fiction awards. I’ve read a number of stories that won the Hugo(Fan Votes) or Nebula(SFWA votes) and have generally enjoyed them.

Sarge
Guest
Sarge
5 years 6 months ago

Just so you know, all hope is not lost. I grew up in the same enviroment, read the same books, and came to the same conclusion conserning the classics. After a decade and a half in the Army. I went to college and got my teaching degree and for the last three years I have introduced many middle schoolers to Dragonlance and louis l’amore, and many others. (not bad for a social studies teacher) So all is not lost in the land of public education there is a quiet underground of folks with common sense.

Ted N(not the Nuge)
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Ted N(not the Nuge)
5 years 6 months ago

Rock on!

BryanF
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BryanF
5 years 6 months ago
I had the same problem in middle and high school. I constantly got C’s and D’s. The books i really enjoyed were my side of the mountain and 20,000 leagues under the sea and um probably something else… It was the yearly book fair that would get me excited about reading, there I could pick up all sorts of war related and chose you own adventure books. Exactly the kind of stuff a 14 year old kid wants to read. I do enjoy some of the classics now that I can begin to wrap my mind around them. I really… Read more »
JRebel
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

I know how you feel Larry. I hated reading up till I was about 12 or 13 when my Dad handed me a “Conan” novel and told me that if I could read it and follow the story then everything else was a breeze. He was right, not to mention that it was a heck of a lot better than the stuff I was being forced to read at school. Been hooked ever since.

Miguel
Guest
5 years 6 months ago
Right on spot Larry. And for the record, the list applies across cultural and border lines. We were stuck with Spanish Literature “Classics” that still make me cringe to this day. 100 Years of Solitude? Please behead me now. Quixote? You do not know boredom till you it in the original 400,000 pages in the Old Spanish of the time. One high school teacher was smart and had us select the books we wanted to read, the truck was the rest of the class had to also read them and they were selected by majority vote. At the end 9… Read more »
Scott Deering
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Scott Deering
5 years 6 months ago

Hi Larry,

What are the true classics of sci-fi and fantasy in your opinion?

-Scott

Don Gwinn
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Don Gwinn
5 years 6 months ago
Meh. I get what you’re saying, and it’s not all that new–Mark Twain famously defined a classic as a book that everyone wants to have read and no one wants to read. On the other hand, there’s no accounting for taste. Most of the commenters here seem to be agreeing that escapist fantasy and sci-fi (with some thrillers thrown in) is the “real” literature and everything that doesn’t fit into that box is pretentious nonsense that people only pretend to enjoy. The fact is, though, that people do read and enjoy other genres and even the dreaded “classic.” “Classic” isn’t… Read more »
Tam
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Don,

Good comment.

And excellent post fodder. 🙂

perlhaqr
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perlhaqr
5 years 6 months ago

Well, we have been being rather harsh. But I think half the problem isn’t only what they make you read in high school, but how they go about beating it to death 5 days a week for the next month that really makes school kids hate the reading selections.

STW
Guest
STW
5 years 6 months ago
My daughter (Phd in reading education) found when she was teaching middle school that her biggest problem with poor students was finding books interesting to a 13 year old that were written at a 1st or 2nd grade level. It concerned her enough that later her dissertation was a survey of middle school literature texts. She spent a lot of time and money trying to find books to interest students. One ploy she used was an old couch in her classroom that was a reward for something or other. Chosen students were “allowed” to sit/lie/sprawl on the couch and read.
mikee
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mikee
5 years 6 months ago

I recommend Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blodd” as an interesting book written for a gradeschool level of reader, which covers very adult subject matter. Many books by Elmore Leonard are similarly written “down” but have good plot and interesting characters.

Don Gwinn
Guest
Don Gwinn
5 years 5 months ago
That is an excellent idea that is unfortunately forbidden, at least around here, by fire codes. Furniture other than school desks and tables is considered a fire hazard; I actually brought in those folding camp-chairs-in-a-bag this year for my reading area, but the district sent someone through to look for things the fire department would fine us for, and they had to go. No bean bags, or worse, upholstered furniture of any kind, are allowed in the classroom lest they add fuel to the fire. In their defense, of course, it must be admitted that there’s a much higher danger… Read more »
Joe in PNG
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Joe in PNG
5 years 6 months ago

There’s quite a few gems in the typical classic required reading list:
A Brave New World, Alas Babylon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Animal Farm, Lord of the Rings.. I’m sure we can find others.

Probably the best quote about Literature come from Terry Pratchett: “Susan hated Literature. She’d much prefer to read a good book.”

aczarnowski
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aczarnowski
5 years 6 months ago

That’s fantastically Pratchett.

Ray McCune
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Ray McCune
5 years 6 months ago

Sooo…what about a pudding eating, repressed, ex-catholic, gay cowboy who travels to Alaska to save the polar bears from global warming but ends up being raped by a paint huffing, space alien robot while he is attempting suicide by cop, but falls over laughing at the officer who resembles Dick Cheney, finds no meaning in life and throws himself to the polar bears never resolving his pudding addiction morality issues?

=/

Ray McCune
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Ray McCune
5 years 6 months ago
Actually I enjoyed reading the original pulp fictions from Jerry Ahern like “The Survivalist”, “Mac Bolan”, “Stoney Man”, and the “Guardian” series. Loved reading, still reading, got the kids reading, leading by example. Currently hooked into MHI series and the “Honor Harrington” books. Something about a strong females kicking assets that just gets my mojo going. It’s all in the story telling and some tell a better story than others. I used to make up stories when the kids were growing up and would tell them at night when they went to bed. I would sit at the top of… Read more »
Urban1095
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Urban1095
4 years 8 months ago

lolz… sounds like a vonnegut novel.

Jen
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Jen
5 years 6 months ago
I was and still am a voracious reader of nearly every genre. The saving grace for me when being hit with the “classics” in HS was that like another person mentioned, I was a good note taker and I was able to regurgitate what the teacher wanted. I made an A on Wuthering Heights and never read more than one chapter. That right there says how useless these books are – that I could spew back the “meaning” without ever reading the damn book. I had read Huckleberry Finn on my own long before I got to it in high… Read more »
Sarge
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Sarge
5 years 6 months ago

The AR programs have 1000’s of books, the librarian can buy new test books as they come out, so the kids can read what ever they like. Its a great program and the kids love it. … well most of them do 😉

Lori
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Lori
5 years 6 months ago

As a teacher, my only problem with the AR system is that it perpetuates the “regurgitation” method. But that’s hard not to with a computer-based system, and it does get kids to read what they choose, so… overall good. Reading good. 🙂

staylor
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staylor
5 years 6 months ago

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was one of the few books that I enjoyed reading in high school english. Twain may have been making a commentary on race relations but he also spun a good yarn while he was at it.

Rob
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Rob
5 years 6 months ago
They had the AR program when I was a kid in junior high. In our school, it was mandatory to complete so many of the computerized tests each quarter, but any additional tests you took voluntarily gave you points that you could use to “buy” neat toys and other items at the end of the quarter. I was already a voracious reader at that time, and there were a LOT of good books on the AR list, so I made out like a bandit. One of the things I was able to “buy” with my points was an Estes model… Read more »
Chris Smith
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Chris Smith
5 years 6 months ago
@Ray- I think King already did the one about the gay polar bear loving pudding lover. My daughters do the AR program at their school. Every year the kids get a reward for hitting certain milestones for points. Pizza party, ice cream social, trips to Spurs games, etc. On top of that I set a goal for them to hit for a special “whatever-you-want-within-reason” reward. This year my 10 yr old has to hit 500pts. She got 400 last year on her own (I had to keep upping the reward level-she kept hitting it a month after I set it!)… Read more »
Lori
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Lori
5 years 6 months ago
. I called a fellow English major and tallied up our hated “classics”: Scarlet letter is definitely on there. However, gotta say this: Wow. In case you don’t remember me, I know you from your last neighborhood and leave nice comments and support you and your AWESOME stories. But that literati attack hurts some. I adore Sherlock Holmes and Louis L’Amour, Agatha Christie, HP Lovecraft AND Jane Eyre. As a writer, I totally respect what you do and would like to think you’d do the same for me when I revel in craft and wordsmithing and yes, Freudian undertones. Are… Read more »
Lori
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Lori
5 years 6 months ago

Sorry- posted twice…not looking good for the defense of the ignorant English majors…. oops! 🙂

rudy meyer
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rudy meyer
5 years 6 months ago

“My favorite book in 6th grade was Dune. I was that kid”

brother!!!!
i’m still that kid/man

David J. West
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Larry- After High School I found the Hemingway quote where he said, “The old man is just an old man, the fish is just a fish, the sea is just the sea and the sharks are just sharks. All the symbolism that people say is just shit.”

Damn, I wish I had that quote back in high school when the teach made us over analyze that story.

Raptor
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

You and me both, David. I had to read Old Man & The Sea back in 8th Grade. That was the one book our “teacher” (I use the world generously as most of the time she just gave us busy work while she shopped for clothes on the classroom computer) made us beat to death. Courtesy of her, I can’t stand Hemingway, but now I think I’ll give him another shot.

NB
Guest
NB
5 years 6 months ago

I just wish he didn’t spend page after page in For Whom the Bell Tolls discussing stew and wine in a cave. It’s a freaking war. Gimme dive bombers, machine guns, or something. I did like the Old Man and the Sea as well as Islands in the Stream.

Bethany
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Bethany
5 years 6 months ago
Let’s hear it for BS detectors! True story: my college lit professor actually did teach from the Cliff’s Notes. Always knew her classes were boring, but one day my best friend (who happened to have the Notes hidden under our table) elbowed me in the middle of class and pointed to the page. The next ten minutes were spent trying not to laugh as the prof. read the Notes verbatim – she had them hidden behind her own notebook. I dropped the class shortly thereafter. Figured there was no reason for me to keep paying thousands of dollars for that… Read more »
Stormy
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Stormy
2 months 2 days ago

I was going to click the thumbs up, but couldn’t decide if this post really should have a thumbs down, so…yeah. Good for you for saving the money.

EJPedde
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EJPedde
5 years 6 months ago

One of my favorite fictional characters gets laughed out of a literature class for suggesting that maybe all the classics had no meaning beyond putting food on their authors’ tables. Said character quits, starts writing and becomes a best-selling author of pulp.

One of my favorite scenes of all time.

Stormy
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Stormy
2 months 2 days ago

That reminds me of a short story (can’t recall the name, but am about 90% sure it was Isaac Asimov) wherein a physics researcher brings William Shakespeare forward in time. Shakespeare attends a class on his own works, and gets a failing grade.

Twistcut
Guest
Twistcut
5 years 6 months ago
I spent a lot of time in detention for reading books in class. Sci-Fi, westerns, fantasy, detective stories, ghost stories, mythology, war novels. When I should have been studying Spanish I was on the Moggollln Rim with Tell Sackett, when I should have been studying math I was flying over the ocher plains of Barsoom. It started with comics in grade school. Sgt. Rock, the Ghost Tank, Tales From The Crypt. Then came junior high and access to the library. Doc Savage, the Mad Scientist club, Conan. Then Heinlein and Asimov (Starship Troopers is one of my all time favorites).… Read more »
Dannyboy
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Dannyboy
5 years 6 months ago

Dang, Twistcut, for a second I’d thought I wrote your post. That was me all over when I was in school.

Ted N(not the Nuge)
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Ted N(not the Nuge)
5 years 6 months ago

Heh, me too. 😀

PoppaJ
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PoppaJ
5 years 6 months ago

For me it was a mixed bag. The library at my elementary school had the complete series for both the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift Jr. I read both The Hobbitt and TLOTR in junior high. As far as high school goes the Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers were good but The Red Badge of Courage bored the shit out of me. Ivanhoe was another good one though.

Salgak
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Salgak
5 years 6 months ago

OK, we need a PROPER High School English curriculum. Imagine how your average HS English teacher would react to, say, an All-Baen Reading List.
Bujold. Ringo. Kratman. Williamson. Hoyt. Flint. And, of course, Larry C. . . .

Baen: where “deeper meaning” is a discussion of caliber and load. . . .

Twistcut
Guest
Twistcut
5 years 6 months ago

Don’t forget the discussions on blade geometry and edge retention.

ammbd
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ammbd
5 years 6 months ago
I swear half your blog post sounds like my 13yr old son after a particularly boring school day 😉 He has little patience with the required regurgitation in school & devoured your books leaving only tatters for the shelves. Getting him to read was hard enough until we finally got a correct diagnosis & fixed his vision problems with the right glasses. Keeping the spark going was not the watered down boring or outright depressing stuff at school & it sure as hell wasn’t the teachers assuming vision issues = incapable of reading. (yes, we moved away from that little… Read more »
the Northwestern Diamondback
Guest
the Northwestern Diamondback
5 years 6 months ago
And the latter also need the freedom to teach in a manner that’s interesting, too. Example: I had a Senior year History instructor who, because I had been in one of his classes years before and he knew WWII was my thing–he thought I knew it better than he did, and had a better assortment of visual aids to boot–asked me to bring in some of those and “guest lecture” for part of that week–my deck of reprint Spotter Cards was a hit, for one. But you have to get someone who’s passionate about their field, not just another “Paycheck… Read more »
Nick
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Nick
5 years 6 months ago
SO TRUE. There are classics I enjoy. Like you, I generally have a fondness for Shakespeare (though I enjoy it much more as performance than as literature). That said, I hate, hate, HATE Romeo and Juliet. It’s probably his worst play, but it’s the one all high schools teach. So instead of watching Kenneth Branagh deliver the St. Crispin’s Day speech, which makes you want to stab a Frenchman, they hear bored classmates read lines about gloved hands. Some choice would be the best way to go. Offer a reading list that looks like this: Romeo and Juliet OR Henry… Read more »
Aaron
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

I remember getting in an argument with my 10th grade teacher when she asked that “what does this book mean” and I replied “The writer had a good story to tell.”

Granted, I may have been drinking before class.

Love this post, and it seems like we had similar experiences in school.

bluesun
Guest
5 years 6 months ago
My parents always read to me as a kid growing up–lots of fantasy stories. Brian Jacques being a big favorite. Sometime in middle school My mom gave me a Lois McMaster Bujold book, and I never looked back! Science Fiction and Fantasy are the only ways that I got through all of my language arts classes throughout grade school. I have always said that “Classic Literahture” is boring, but recently I have been trying to read a little bit more of that stuff. I still don’t really see what the fuss is all about though; I would rather read a… Read more »
Harry the Horrible
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Harry the Horrible
5 years 6 months ago

Kipling.
Specifically, “The Grave of a Hundred Head.”

Matthew
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Matthew
5 years 6 months ago

Wait – you have a thousand books like MHI? WHERE!!??

aczarnowski
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aczarnowski
5 years 6 months ago

My high school (and ongoing) English epiphany was “Main Street” by Sinclair Lewis. I graduated near Sauk Center MN, which the book is set, so, yeah, instant local classic. Sweet cthulhu was that awful.

Thank the great old ones for Dragonlance, Lovecraft, The Stand and Tom Clancy.

Old NFO
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Good one and oh so true Larry… I was one of ‘those’ kids too…

Fred
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

I struggled through high school english, failing the basic lit class twice, before a guidence councelor told me there was an optional lit class where you could read whatever the hell you wanted. I aced that one for some reason, and the ended up getting the teacher hooked on Heinlein… I easily read more that semester than I did the rest of my high school career, and I’ve always loved reading. (Come to think of it, I probably failed the other one because I didn’t want the required book cutting into my reading time.)

Jake
Guest
5 years 6 months ago
“I didn’t want the required book cutting into my reading time.” Yeah, that was me most of the time. I was too busy reading for enjoyment to want to read the drek they required for school. And The Scarlet Letter is one of the worst books I’ve ever tried to read. I simply could not force myself to even finish the first chapter, it was that horrible – and (according to my parents) I’ve been a voracious reader since I was three years old! I read The Hunt for Red October when I was 10 years old, and finished it… Read more »
Nick Sharps
Guest
Nick Sharps
5 years 6 months ago

Highschool math is another area that needs reworking. I love algebra, it actually makes sense and geometry isn’t so bad either but the more advanced courses like pre-calc is nothing more than learning how to use a graphing calculator and writing down ridiculous make believe numbers.

Will Keeble
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Will Keeble
5 years 6 months ago

I hate to go off topic here, but:

I am currently studying Engineering, and learning those numbers. They aren’t made up, and they aren’t ridiculous. They are really, really useful.

BUT

Teaching them without context is like forcing people to eat ground glass while telling them “It’s for your own good!”

I hated highschool math. If the teacher does not understand how it works, they should not be teaching it. Furthermore, if the teacher can’t even explain to you what it’s for… Well. Enough said.

the Northwestern Diamondback
Guest
the Northwestern Diamondback
5 years 6 months ago

Unless you’re doing engineering or statistics, or sciences… I quite distinctly got the impression that the majority of my calc classes were basically numerical masturbation.

Matt G
Guest
5 years 6 months ago
I would have failed high school English, if I hadn’t already read over half the books. Moby Dick was almost my undoing. Tess, Wuthering Heights, Mayor of Casterbridge (which I didn’t read, but got a 72 on the multiple choice test on so meh), etc all were unreadable, for the most part, when they were assigned reading. Brave New World, Great Expectations (over-wrought, but still a damned good story by a damned good writer. Given that he was paid by the word in periodicals, Dickens could be forgiven for being loquatious), Huck Finn, etc– all were good because I’d read… Read more »
Nick
Guest
Nick
5 years 6 months ago

If you want to read Joyce, I’d recommend Dubliners. Rather than being a ridiculously overwrought novel, it’s a short collection of character studies and vignettes. It’s my current bathroom book, I’m about 3/4 of the way through. They’re some of the more scholarly dumps I’ve ever taken.

Steve D
Guest
5 years 6 months ago
I never had any real problems in English. Yeah I was forced to read the “classics” but, like Larry, I soon developed a BS detector. Instead of tuning out, I learned how to BS better than the teacher. Why read the book if we are just going to discuss the heck out of it? You pick out the theories the teacher gets the most excited about and spit them out on an essay. Giddyup. Of course, all this posturing by academics (I feel for the poster that talked about Spanish Literature…ugh) made me think, “All this shit is terrible. I’m… Read more »
Harry the Horrible
Guest
Harry the Horrible
5 years 6 months ago

A very long time ago, when I was in school, I noticed that the stories in my Lit textbooks seemed to have been selected based on how boring they were. I only remember one worthwhile story “The Most Dangerous Game.”

They even manged to find an un-funny Thurber story. Go figure.

I made up for it in the Library – Buchan, Heinlein, Norton, etc.

BrianC
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BrianC
5 years 6 months ago

Thankfully, I acquired a love of reading early on that even high school and college classes (Literature of the Sea?) couldn’t destroy. If I had not already learned to love reading on my own, I’d probably be an illiterate nekulturny today.

Andy
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Andy
5 years 6 months ago
Dang, Larry, I’m glad you said all this because every time I utter this theory to anyone else (“Kids hate reading because schools beat it out of them!”) they just look at me like I’m some kind of uncultured asshole. People are just conditioned to think books are boring. Books and writers I enjoyed in spite of the school curriculum: Shakespeare, especially Macbeth. I like Shakespeare so much I even took a whole class on him in college, although the professor was enormously disappointing as he looked and acted exactly like a stereotypical Shakespeare snob right down to the tweedy… Read more »
Stretch
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Stretch
5 years 6 months ago

Ethan Frome? Worst. Book. Ever.
Did you know Star Trek/OS took 4 episode titles from Shakespeare? That cross pollination lead me down lots of different paths. I can hike my way from 3 Farthing Stone to The Lonely Mountain (Orcs and wargs permitting) and know the difference between the Gods In Lankhmar and the Gods OF Lankhmar. And never EVER tell an English prof. Ulysses can only be enjoyed after a bottle of Bushmills and a case of Guinness. Oh well, it wasn’t like I was going to actually pass.

Lori
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Lori
5 years 6 months ago

Yeah, it’s true; just don’t tell them. 😉 I think my Scottishness overrules my literature loyalty here: if you can’t get through it sober, don’t.

Firehand
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. God, I loved those books, still do. And the Conan stories actually written by Howard, not screwed with by that clown whose name escapes me who thought they needed improving. Solomon Kane.

My grades sucked until I wanted a motorcycle, and I was informed that if I had good grades the insurance would cost less; I don’t remember if I actually learned much but I was on the honor roll through senior year after that.

rj
Guest
rj
5 years 6 months ago

> the Conan stories actually written by Howard…
Amen brother.

BTW, Larry’s publisher’s ebook webpage, http://www.webscriptions.net has the entire “Fafhred and Grey Mouser” collection (unencrypted) for $35:

http://www.webscription.net/s-200-fritz-leiber.aspx

JSpradley
Guest
JSpradley
5 years 6 months ago
THANK YOU!!!! Larry you’ve said exactly what I’ve been thinking. I was “that kid” too…. I thought 90% of the crap we had to read in schools was just that, but I loved to read the stuff I wanted to read, and still do. I know many many people who have never read a single book outside of school, and when asked why they hate reading the answer is almost invariably because they were forced to read crap and find the “meaning” in it for the first 18 years of their life. I have to wonder if it’s intentional to… Read more »
Guest
Randy
5 years 6 months ago
Wow, I see a LOT of posts I could of authored. Another one saved from functional illiteracy by being turned loose in the public library long before English/Lit classes could ruin it for me. Read all the Twain I could after visiting Hannibal when I was 8 or 9. Got accused of reading ahead (like that would be a major accomplishment, given how slow everyone else in the class was moving) when I “guessed” right away what “The Most Dangerous Game” was. Well Duh! Heinlein stated that over and over again through many of his characters. Musta been where this… Read more »
DonM
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DonM
2 years 3 months ago

I was lucky that my mom was the school and town librarian. And had an even larger collection at home that the school and town combined.

rj
Guest
rj
5 years 6 months ago

Larry, I am impressed that you read Dune in sixth grade. In sixth and seventh grade I was working my way through what I, as an 11 & 12 year old boy thought was “classics”. That is to say, any book with a Boris Vallejo or Frank Frazetta cover.

I didn’t get to Dune until the eighth grade.

Sean
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Sean
5 years 6 months ago
Speaking as a high school senior, I agree with most of what has been said here. I read all the time (to the detriment of my grades sometimes), and I read just about anything. I aced the reading test on the ACT. With a few exceptions, I’m better read than most of my teachers (interestingly enough, only one of the three teachers I’ve met who are better read than me is an English teacher. The other two are both Social Studies). I read very few books for high school that were actually interesting. The few that were interesting tend to… Read more »
wolfwalker
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wolfwalker
5 years 6 months ago
Is a very bad idea to read a post and thread like this in the wee small hours when one should be sleeping, because one’s brain explodes in a whirl of thoughts that can’t be expressed very well. But I’ll try. thought #1: there’s at least two kinds of ‘classics’. One kind is a classic because of what it means to dry dusty professors who labor in dry dusty offices studying The History of Literature. ie, Moby Dick and The Scarlet Letter are classics because they were among the first American-written novels that anyone really noticed. The other kind is… Read more »
Sheila S
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Sheila S
5 years 6 months ago
Larry, A friend turned me onto your blog and books. I have them ordered and have enjoyed reading the blogs. This one resonated with me because I read a LOT growing up. I was still a good student, but in 5th grade, one of my teachers had a floor to ceiling bookcase that had all sorts of books in it and she told me if I read all of them by the end of the year, she’d take me to dinner. I did and we went and talked about the books. She inspired a love of reading in me that… Read more »
Sarah
Guest
5 years 6 months ago
I average a book every day and a half. That being said, the only book I actualy remember from high school english is Hamlet. Here’s a news flash for english teachers: THE LANGUAGE HAS CHANGED! I insisted on using my own copy of Hamlet because I wasn’t going to read a book that had one page of text and the next page of deffinitions. I was the only one in my class that knew what all of the words ment. Not only are we making kids read books that put you to sleep, we are making them do it in… Read more »
Michelle Potter
Guest
5 years 6 months ago
My husband just read this post to me. First, I have to say that I am *so* glad to hear someone else say The Scarlet Letter sucked. IMO, Hawthorne should have stuck to short stories. “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” was great; The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables both read like Hawthorne regurgitated a thesaurus because his publisher wanted more pages. However, I have to say that my experience of high school English was pretty much opposite yours. My teachers ruined all the best books by having us watch the movie instead of reading. We were told to skip… Read more »
curlywolf
Guest
curlywolf
5 years 6 months ago
“A book just can’t be a story. It has to be an analogy for some social commentary. And heaven help us if it wasn’t, because then all those no-talent hack English professors wouldn’t be able to write 1,000 page commentaries on what the whale in Moby Dick REALLY represented.” I’m going to out on a limb and guess that they think it’s the symbolism of a sexually frustrated white male whose penis is nowhere near that big, jealous of those who have a big dick and are also upset that they don’t get laid anywhere near as often as they’d… Read more »
Tam
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

AP AmLit 101 teacher: “Why do you think Melville wrote Moby Dick?”

Little Tam: “He was hungry?

Chris Bolts Sr
Guest
Chris Bolts Sr
5 years 6 months ago

I was redirected to this page, but I am bookmarking it. This a man after my own heart.

accordingtohoyt
Guest
5 years 6 months ago
Hi Larry, You should be so lucky, having kids read something written 100 years ago. Both my kids were forced to read a book called “Bless me Ultima” (My kids’ name for it was “Curse me Cr*pula”. Let me just say no book written 100 years ago COULD be that neurotic little collection of meaninglessness, despair and false hipness. I couldn’t believe what the kids told me about it until I skimmed it. Then there is “Chronicle of a death foretold” written by one of Chavez’s good buddies, natch. Don’t go there. TRULY don’t get me started, because if you… Read more »
accordingtohoyt
Guest
5 years 6 months ago
And I think we’re DEFINITELY related. Your career in English in School is my younger son’s. He’s amazingly articulate, well read, well informed. His essays are often more coherent than mine. I read his classmates during a brief invasion of my blog because I dared criticize a teacher’s assumption that culture equaled genetics (long story.) My kid — both of them — write so much better than these people it’s not even funny. No, it’s not a mother’s illusion. Older son is professionally published. Younger son won a writing contest against a lot of adults AND my husband and I.… Read more »
Kate Paulk
Guest
5 years 6 months ago
Hi Larry! Sarah Hoyt pointed me this way. I should point out you’ve got a problem with #7 in your list. The evil, all-powerful religion had better not bear any resemblance to a certain modern religion currently rather dominant in the Middle East. So evil polygamist patriarchal religion is out… I was the quiet girl who did decently well in English (Australian school English hadn’t been quite so corrupted when I went through school – besides, I’d usually read the assigned books within 24 hours of getting them, so I got to enjoy them (if they could be enjoyed) before… Read more »
Nathan
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Nathan
5 years 6 months ago
I blame my special loathing of 1930s American lit on High School and college. I didn’t get why Great Gatsby was any good, loathed anything by Steinbeck (may someone lock his ghost in with Earl on a bad night), and felt Hemmingway didn’t deliver on the hype built up by the teachers. Even the other “literature” authors in that time period I was forced to read proved painful. And, of course, each assignment was treated like Moses came down from the mountain carrying them, and dissected into oblivion searching for symbolism that just reflected the reader’s biases. May all those… Read more »
NB
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NB
5 years 6 months ago

I am in the same camp even though I like Steinbeck. Cup of Gold is my favorite. Grapes and Of Mice and Men didn’t do anything for me.

Hemingway’s short stories were so much better than his novels. His stripped down writing style gets boring after 300 pages or so. The dialogue in his books is so contrived. No one talks like his characters.

I found Heinlein early. Starship Troopers and The Glory Road are two of my all time favorites.

Diana
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Diana
5 years 6 months ago

Ye gods…

Ever single student in my class agrees “The Pearl” is the WORST. NOVEL. EVER.

We had to a freakin’ packet on stupid symbolism, what animal the main character is like, and how the Pearl is “evil”.

If a pearl is “evil”, then guns are evil, cars are evil, politics are evil, TV is evil, and BOOKS are evil.

Lord, give me Terry Pratchett for this crap they teach us…

accordingtohoyt
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

LOL. The book my kid got confiscated by a teacher was the Johnny Maxwell trilogy…

Dust
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Dust
5 years 6 months ago
Very good Larry. I cannot remember a single book from High School or college for that matter. Funny, after almost twenty years I still get mad if someone tells me I have to read a certain book. Everything I have read and enjoyed since the second grade has been dictated by moods. Melville is a waste. I do not think anyone that is not a literature teacher can possibly have a “mood” for Melville. Except for the quote made famous, to me at least, in the Wrath Of Kahn by Kahn at the end of the movie. It is a… Read more »
Don Gwinn
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Don Gwinn
5 years 5 months ago
OK, I propose an experiment. Right now I’m doing read-alouds with “Handbook for Boys” by Walter Dean Myers. When my wife finishes MHI, I’ll begin daily read-alouds from it and see where it goes. The only read-aloud I’ve ever had any success with was a sort-of nonfiction book called “A Fighter’s Heart.” I just cannot wrap my mind around the idea of being bored by “Moby Dick.” What are people looking for in an adventure story? Outlandish companions? Nutty religion? Bizarre humor? Satire from every angle? Danger, privation, hardship, sailing out into the unknown with a motley crew of nutballs,… Read more »
Geodkyt
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Geodkyt
5 years 5 months ago
Don, Does that mean that because I find Limbaugh and Boortz entertaining, I must also enjoy Garofalo, Frankin (before he ran for the Senate), or Olbermann’s screeds, just because they are all political commentators who often employ sarcasm, reducto ad absurbum, and other techniques? Heck, I don’t even find Beck and Hannity that entertaining, even when I agree with them! ALL speculative fiction much more thoughtful than, “See hero. Hero has ray gun (or magic sword). Hero kills stuff. Hero bangs green skinned Orion slave girl (or pointy eared elven chick).” is based on symbolism. I find Heinlein entertaining and… Read more »
Don Gwinn
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Don Gwinn
5 years 5 months ago
On the subject of math, if you like fiction and history and loathe math, try a book called “Mathematics for the Million.” It was written in the 1930s, and the big revolution in its approach is that it organizes a math curriculum from simplest number sense up through calculus in chronological, historical order, rather than the conceptual order in most math textbooks. The author begins with prehistoric man and discusses why numbers were developed in the first place. From there, he discusses how the arithmetic operations developed (and WHY each was needed) and moves on to fractions, and from there… Read more »
Lazy Bike Commuter
Guest
5 years 3 months ago

I don’t know if you ever check your old comments, so this might be falling on deaf ears (blind eyes?), but a lot of your points remind me of another favorite author of mine, Orson Scott Card.

I love reading his articles as well, though it would be nice if he would stop liking socialized medicine and gun control. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.

Martine
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Martine
5 years 16 days ago
Can’t say I agree. I loved Hawthorne and I still do. maybe not “Scarlett letter” as much as some of the other stuff. But its still pretty good. i remember trying to guess who the father of Pearl was. Its a great book. The point of High School English is not to encourage people to read, so they can but your books. Its to get them to understand literature. Besides, plenty of people would hate your books as much as you hate Shakespeare. No one has the same tastes anyhow. My mom likes autobiographies. I like drama, my dad likes… Read more »
Martine
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Martine
5 years 16 days ago
If someone had tried to make me read S Holmes in school I probably would have quit. I remember my mom reading ” The Scarlett band” to my sister and me when I was a kid. It featured a snake that could hear a whistle( HOW??? Snakes have no ears! They feel vibrations, and are otherwise deaf.) The snake also could somehow climb a rope(maybe it grew legs.) and drank milk. It also featured a stupid lady who, after being bitten by a snake decided to mutter some ass shit about “the speckled band” instead of simply yelling “SNAKE”. I… Read more »
Francesca
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Francesca
4 years 6 days ago
“The schools also contain girls. They don’t much like guns or stupid psuedo science devises.” As a girl, I find that a stereotype a bit offensive. I love Larry’s books, as well as other combat sci-fi stuff, and know many other girls who do as well and are tired of being seen as some kind of oddity. And I can honestly say these books make me think and feel, too. Awesome, unique characters. Difficult situations and decisions. Sci-fi or not, there is a sense of genuineness and purpose. And heck, I’m sure with all the cataclysmic stuff he’s throwing in… Read more »
Mike in Seattle
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Mike in Seattle
2 years 4 months ago

My daughters favorite book is Ender’s Game. Obviously, I’ve stunted her emotional development in some way for her to be reading such things in Middle School where a boy might see.

Stormy
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Stormy
2 months 7 hours ago
I’m a “girl”. I thoroughly enjoy many books with guns and “stupid pseudo science stuff” (as well as many books based on real science, which explore the ramifications of applying said science -and technology – to human nature and the existing society. Many of these books have made me feel. The vast majority of them made me think. In fact, the primary reason I gravitated to hard science fiction as a child was because it made me think about concepts, ideas and potential outcomes that something like Lord of the Flies didn’t even come close to contemplating. (One of the… Read more »
Jake
Guest
4 years 5 days ago
The point of High School English is not to encourage people to read, so they can but your books. Its to get them to understand literature. Okay, to help me out here; please define what makes something “literature”, and explain how and why a work like (for example) The Scarlett Letter is literature while (again, for example) A Study in Scarlet is not. Then please explain why getting students to “understand literature” in a way that causes them to never pick up another book ever again without being forced to do so is considered a good thing. Especially given the… Read more »
Andrew
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Andrew
2 years 6 months ago

I could be off base (and I realize this is thread necromancy), but if high school English forces people to consume certain books and creates a strong aversion to ever reading any other ideas…that’s got to serve someone’s interests.

Jake Sallee
Guest
4 years 11 months ago
I totally agree with you Larry. I received a kindle for Christmas and saw that a lot of “the Classics” are free because they are in the public domain. I downloaded sever and couldn’t stand them! The writing style is so abstract that the story, which is supposed to be this amazing metaphor, is too fractured to understand much less make any cognitive leap as to the meaning of any metaphor or allusion. Let me tell you, Les Miserables … SUCKS. I finished it out of pure stubbornness. plot summery: Bad things happen, bad things happen, this guy is a… Read more »
Kurt Schneider
Guest
4 years 11 months ago

Four words: The Tale of Genji. There is more tortured tedium in that book than in anything ever written.

Collin Shaneyfelt
Guest
4 years 11 months ago
Let me see i got read the hobbit for a bedtime story when i hit 7. in junior high we had an AR reading program with a good selection however i still brought a book from whatever series i was reading even as i burned through the rest of lotor and all of michael chrichton, in high school i blazed through all the dresden files up to that point( still my favorite series sorry Larry), Wheel of time, Ringo, got sick of hp cause read so much, Simon R Green, and your stuff when my dad found it. i did… Read more »
Rob Jones
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Rob Jones
4 years 11 months ago
I just finished reading Monster Hunter Vendetta for the first time this morning at 5:30 am (after finishing Monster Hunter Inernational yesterday morning). I have been a voracious reader since kindergarten/first grade. My whole family was known at the public library by name, and each of the three children in my family would have a small box that we would carry around the library to fill with our book choices. Three weeks later (or less), we’d be back to each get another box of books. I remember taking the AR tests somewhere towards the end of elementary school. I was… Read more »
Big Tony
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Big Tony
4 years 8 months ago

Well Larry if it makes you feel any better about high school English class your books will now be shaping the young minds of tomorrow. As part of my masters program I designed a unit around “Monster Hunter International”. So in spite of my advisor telling me it could not be done I did it and presented it to my masters review board and it passed. So in at least one district in California you have officially been added to the reading list.

Mark Crampton
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Mark Crampton
4 years 7 months ago
Larry, couldn’t agree with you more about lit classes! Took my 5 tries to pass English Lit in college – profs were in love with Thomas Hardy, Salinger, et al! Argued with one prof – Why was Salinger/Catcher in the Rye a ‘Classic” give me hard facts? I explained that L’Amore was classic – almost a hundred books written, thousands ofl publications/repubs, a couple of dozen movies made. I even explained that by her criteria I was a classic arthor (2 published novels from a ‘writing boiler room” at the time), beating Salinger’s 1 novel. Didn’t convince her! Oh, incidentl;y,… Read more »
Stormy
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Stormy
2 months 7 hours ago

Mark – I don’t even like horror movies, generally (although I really enjoyed The Lost Boys, for some reason), but I *love* your term paper. Glad you got through English Lit somehow.

Technoid
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

Now imagine living in another country (Sweden for example…) and having to read some of the mentioned literary works after they have been translated to swedish by some person who who are just 3 steps above google translate….

Brian
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Brian
4 years 5 months ago

I’m very late reading this post, but I have to add this. Long long ago, when dinosaurs walked the earth, my 6th grade English teacher sent home an interim report: “Please stop Brian from reading in class.” I was more than the rest of the class combined most likely, but it was not “acceptable” books for my English class. i.e. Boring Crap

Justin
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Justin
4 years 4 months ago
My god. I feel like I’ve come home. I love reading, especially sci-fi, and that’s the one problem I had with some of my English teachers. I taught myself to read when I was around 2, and I’ve got a personal library of around 850-900 books. So when I say I hated Literature class in school, I mean I HATED it. Firstly, the teacher had… not really a stutter, but…. He said “Ummmm…” a lot. Like, every 5th sentence. He would have the class take turns reading the assignment during lecture, and interrupt every second paragraph with a 15 minute… Read more »
Nick Gardner
Guest
4 years 1 month ago

I think the funniest thing my 10th grade English teacher ever said to a student was “I think you might be reading a bit much into that.”

Pattybones
Guest
4 years 21 days ago
I worked at an elementary school for two years and had to prepare tests to evaluate their reading skills. I had to read the stuff in the text books and I agreed most of it was boring and not engaging. I tried to pick out the more exciting parts or include content from pop culture. The blending worked for the lower grades. The middle school most of that stuff was boring and I tried to find items that met the criteria, but was engaging as well. I did notice that the stuff the middle school was reading for fun was… Read more »
Matt Simon
Guest
3 years 10 months ago
books that i read in high school English that people should read 1) Catch 22. because its hilarious and brilliant. also yossarian is sane, theirs a war going on and no one else noticed. 2) one flew over the cuckoos nest. had a real societal impact on the practice of psychology 3) 1984. because it should never be allowed to happen. 4) brave new world. because it should never be allowed to happen. 5) Crime and punishment. (yes i know, but its one of the first true crime novels and it has astounding insight into the little impulses that generate… Read more »
Og
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

I was directed here by a comment on my blog, and I have to say, I enjoy the discussion. The post in question referred to my loathing of Gregory Peck and “To Kill a Mockingbird”(Both the book and the movie) I find it to be a collection of caricatures of “Evil white people” and “innocent black people who never did any harm to anyone” which has- as you point out, a “meaning”. The beginnings, in 1960, of the indoctrination of the public in victimoguery.

kaflick
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kaflick
3 years 10 months ago
I was that kid too. Each year in junior high we were given a list of books to choose from for reading. The problem was we had to pick books we hadn’t read yet. This meant that all of the books on the list that I had not read yet were ones that I had tried and couldn’t stand. I am a very fast reader, a book lasts me two or three hours depending on length. At first they wouldn’t believe me that I had read almost all of their books. In the 60s when I was in junior high… Read more »
Charles Harris
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Charles Harris
3 years 10 months ago

Ah, cheese factories. I spent a year working at the Amalga cheese factory in Cache Valley after falling out with my advisor…

I enjoy your stories, they have funny bits which makes them almost unique in the fantasy genre.

Andy
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Andy
3 years 7 months ago
i just came across the post, after initially being brought to your blog by your gun control post, and i couldn’t agree more. i am 29 years old and just finished my time in academia. i have undergrad experience in areas ranging from communications to math to biology to business, capping off my education with a law degree; however, i hardly read. ever. i might read 2 books a year “for fun,” and that is a more recent trend. i don’t think i read a single book in highschool, or 5 years afterwards, that wasn’t required for school. i didn’t… Read more »
trackback
2 years 10 months ago
[…] Correia on the Classics: “True story. A friend of mine is a successful fantasy novelist. He was asked to speak to a creative writing class about his first book. The teacher asked him what it “meant.” He gave her the plot synopsis. No. What does it “mean”? It is a fantasy, about magic, and– NO. What is the real “meaning”?  You see, college English is the only place where Freudian psychology is still legitimate. Everything has to have a deeper meaning. A book just can’t be a story. It has to be an analogy for some social commentary. And… Read more »
Jason
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Jason
2 years 7 months ago
Hey all. I have to agree with Larry in school I found almost every book in english from junor high to english 101 in university to be incredibly boring and I only read them because they were required. It was only be chance that one day when I was in university I went to a local mall to get a new pair of pants and wandered into a bookstore nearby. I had no plan to buy anything but happened to wander into the sci-fi/fantasy section of this small store. Now I have always enjoyed science fiction and fantasy TV and… Read more »
John Pryce
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John Pryce
2 years 6 months ago
Couldn’t stand Lovecraft, but Howard’s CONAN really tripped my “This is AWESOME” switch. In school I read more in any given year than most of the rest of my year’s class read the entire time they were at school, I think. Maybe a few of my geek friends, who introduced me to some of the better stories, read half as much as me. I despised Great Gatsby, and Catcher in the Rye, and everything they wanted us to read by Vonnegut, and Pride and Prejudice, and about half the classics they demanded we read. I DID actually read them, but… Read more »
JKB
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JKB
2 years 6 months ago

You forgot the extra bonus of turning kids off developing good writing skills by insisting they write about these boring books and all the symbolism and meaning no one gets.

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[…] Correia on the classics. Related: Another reason to hate English teachers. […]

Bad Horse
Guest
2 years 5 months ago
You know about your angle, the kinds of books you like, and you’re under the illusion that everything else out there is “the enemy”, as if the people pushing Shakespeare, Joyce, and Bukowski were the same people. They’re not. Your “literati” opponents hate each other more than they hate you. They’re divided into uncountable factions that you don’t even seem to be aware of. The fact that some pretentious ass told you there were hidden themes in Hamlet doesn’t mean that themes are bad. The fact that books that bored you were held up as works important beyond entertainment doesn’t… Read more »
CombatMissionary
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CombatMissionary
2 years 4 months ago

I just saw this today, and I had to leave a reply, even though the blog is a couple of years old. Louis L’amour could write a novel using actuarial tables as its sole source, and his first draft would be a best seller, because it would be:
a) historically accurate
b) pro-America
c) full of interesting characters
d) true to life
e) educational as all get-out
f) based on L’amour’s (or his family’s) real life experiences
g) more entertaining than a roomful of academics having their hair set on fire

Blond_Engineer
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Blond_Engineer
2 years 4 months ago
The two mile walk home from the school bus was my quality reading time. I learned it from my mother, who read constantly. Commercial breaks in her favorite TV show? Out came the book. Waiting in line at the grocery store? Out came the book. Red lights in traffic? Out came the book. Horrible multi-car traffic accident that turned the highway into a parking lot? Score! At least my Middle School English teacher never tried to tell me I should read less. Instead, she tried to ‘teach me a lesson’ by assigning me to read half a dozen books that… Read more »
Alpheus
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Alpheus
2 years 4 months ago
The funny thing is, I think I actually /enjoyed/ the analyzing of literature in English class. This isn’t to say that I was fantastic at it…I tended to get terrible grades in English (having said that, part of the reason in certain classes was that vocabulary killed me: while I /can/ sit down and memorize things by rote, I generally have a difficult time bringing myself to do it…). I enjoyed this enough that I found the idea of becoming an English major somewhat attractive. For what it’s worth, one major reason I didn’t become an English major, was because… Read more »
Glitchus
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Glitchus
2 years 3 months ago

This is ‘spot on’, especially in regards to “The Scarlet Letter” and “Catcher In The Rye” (which was only slightly better than utter tortuous tripe!) While in high school I purloined a copy of Orwell’s “1984” from a stack they were discarding (makes you wonder) and found even that utterly despairing novel to be a thousand times more illuminating and enjoyable.

David
Guest
2 years 2 months ago
I was given a homework assignment to read Catcher in the Rye when I turned 30 after doing a book report on it my junior year in highschool. In the conclusion of the report we were to tell what we thought of the book. I ripped that book a new one! HATED IT!! One of the only books I wanted to throw against the wall. What a whiney little punk!! So, my English teacher gave me homework when I turned 30. I’m 34. Still haven’t read it! I picked it up and couldn’t bring myself to do it. She was… Read more »
The Childlike Author
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

Heh. “Gay cowboys eating pudding.”

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Jacob from Upstate NY
Guest
Jacob from Upstate NY
1 year 11 months ago
I read a lot. I’ve always read a lot. My parents would always let me get something in the book store, no matter what. Also, I could always order something from the Scholastic Books flyer they sent out to the kids in my elementary school. I picked The Hobbit in 1st grade. My parents were always on my side whenever I had trouble with the school (which was frequently of the “Jacob doesn’t pay attention in class” sort). My mom’s favorite response to the principal was “What did Jacob get on each of his last three tests/assignments?” and the answer… Read more »
Philip Jones
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Amen to your post.
1) I have always wondered with all of the great classics out there (I also like Silas Marners and Count of Monte Cristo) they always force you to read crap in English classes
2) I have always thought that literary analysis has to be the most useless of all human studies
It is nice to know I am not alone

Mycroft
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

I can’t believe that I’ve never read this classic post before. I’ve followed your blog and read both your MHI and Grimnoir series, but not this post. It’s interesting how few trolls you’ve had on this post, just a couple skimming until offended and claiming that you hate Shakespeare.

Lee
Guest
Lee
1 year 3 months ago
This original post was years ago, and the Kay comment was late last year, so it’s unlikely my comment will be read but here goes: I had a GREAT English teacher on high school. He taught both the advanced lit class (that I was in) and the class they put the students barely passing in. He gave those classes themes, like cars or sports, and he used something in the “classics” realm for them. I can’t remember what they read any more, but it was NOT dumbed down for them; he refused to give them junior high level texts. Our… Read more »
8th grader
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8th grader
1 year 1 month ago

Yes I’m an 8th grader. Frankly I agree with this, I’ve read every MHI book, Every Terry Pratchet book I could find (and every other sci-fi or fantasy book I could find in the school library(Dune is amazing)) and I’m still obsessively reading. Why? because my parents encouraged me to read from a young age and don’t force me to read what I don’t want to. My 1st-6th grade teachers did the same. Then I get into 7th grade and my world changed I just couldn’t read what I wanted to. Frankly English class is killing reading for me.

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[…] even traditionally published genre authors, disparage the concept of literary fiction or classics. SF novelist Larry Correia has a blog post discussing classic novels. His argument is that classics are merely classics because English professors decide they are. […]

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[…] and what it is to be human through the frame of an SF detective story. According to the dialectic, stories are either ‘pulp’ or MFA-establishment approved literary. Fiction can be both. It should be both. Where a history […]

xavier
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xavier
9 months 3 days ago
Larry, Sorry to resuscitate an old blog post. I agree with you that schools kill the love of reading saw that happen to extent with brother and sister. I was luckier as I went to a different school and the English teachers appreciated good books. So I read the Once and future king, Watership down. I also read alot outside of school and not always in English. So my ‘classics’ are somewhat different that most commentators here. I particularly love the late medieval-eratly modern works where the authours shamelessly plagarized from each other and wrote awesome stories that remain such… Read more »
Luke
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Luke
8 months 29 days ago
Nothing like a slow work day to get some time to read the classics (and I hope your blog posts become required classical reading for future generations). Your comment on the Scarlet Letter made me uber-sad with memories of my Junior HS honors engrish class which I almost flunked. I was that same kid reading on the bus, grew up in a house with no TV and autographed Heinlein books. I read several novels a week from grade school on, but that one book and the teacher foisting it on my caused me to stop reading for months. I was… Read more »
Reziac
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Reziac
8 months 16 days ago
Ah, The Scarlet Letter, that epitome of every-word-is-symbolism. We studied it in the 7th grade, and I, who already read anything with words, found most of it a long dull slog. (The last third or so, tho, I read voluntarily all in a rush, as it suddenly got good.) Now, I think studying symbolism is a good exercise for young minds; I’d be the poorer if I lacked that education, and I certainly would have lacked the foundation for deeper study later on (which we did all through school). But it needs to be balanced with “stuff young minds are… Read more »
Everett
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Everett
4 months 23 days ago

I think I peed myself at work, laughing at this. Pee, work, and kakis do not mix.

Brian McGoldrick
Guest
Brian McGoldrick
2 months 12 days ago

You know Larry, I was reading your list, and 3, 4 and 9 are all in some my favorite books. The only problem is these books would totally piss off almost every leftist, elitist snob on the face of the planet.

They’re not bad things in and of themselves, as long as they fit the story.

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