Read the reviews below, or check out where my weirdness and teaching collide…
The Scarlet Letter: Nathaniel Hawthorne, if you had a time machine, would you go back and attempt to stop Puritan witch hunts and public shaming knowing your writing career would have to take a wildly different route?
To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee, did you edit by opening your manuscript to any two pages over and over again to make sure any two pages consecutively seen will call back to each other like the sunset calls to the sunrise but it doesn’t hear back for at least half a day?
The Sirens of Titan: Kurt Vonnegut, did you really create the plot while talking at a cocktail party, or did you just know that we would love that and this story because they both are absurd at first but more honest than just about anything you ever hear?
The Great Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald, did you realize that making all of the characters absolutely unbearable to hang out with would make them irresistible to read, and do you think reality T.V. is your fault?
The Bluest Eye: Toni Morrison, did you mean to show those who rejected white beauty as the sole standard to spit and vomit as opposed to hold in their bodily functions like those who accepted a substandard place in society, or did that shit just happen as a side effect to your greatness?
A Separate Peace: John Knowles, did you create the most universally complete reaction to fear on purpose, or does it just come to you like an imagined enemy does–with an open hand and a smile that never hurts unless you hope it does?
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: Mark Twain, did you ever answer a question honestly that wasn’t about people being assholes?
The Crucible: Arthur Miller, did you think it was as fun as I think it was to write John Proctor yelling “God is dead!” in a setting that could not be worse for him to do so?
Dracula: Bram Stoker, did you mean for me to contemplate imaginary monsters instead of xenophobia or racism?
Final Harvest: Emily Dickinson, did you ever want to write about rainbows and unicorns, or are my students just making assumptions like always?
Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury, did you just want to yell at the world like me, but instead you just wrote everything we needed to know about life in Beatty, Faber, and Granger’s speeches?
The Sheltering Sky: Paul Bowles, did you make me distrust myself and my best friends, or did I all along?
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: Junot Díaz, did you show the ongoing effects of political and family history to expose a fuku whose only zafa is to stop trying to control women?
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: Sherman Alexie, did you decide if there is a best route for Native American populations to stay or leave reservations, or am I missing the point of my and society’s role?
Cactus Thorn: Mary Austin, did you write that the personal is political to make clear that the issues many white males worry about in politics are also things they can directly change with their personal decisions, even though that’s a lot to handle for, you know, me directly?