So already, since we're talking about stories -- okay, since I'm talking about stories -- just want to talk about a few other ones -- the fictional ones that grab our hearts and sit there like blessings and burdens, that make us want to run out to the street and tell everyone "You have to read this!" -- even though they probably read it years ago, in the case of Vonnegut, while we were busy vacuuming, or weeding our gardens, or paying our bills, or doing what I'll probably be doing after I finish posting this -- reading student essays.
Recently, one of my students, Solomon -- he and his mother both know that I'm mentioning him here -- designed a graduation project entitled "Literature, Writing, and Blogging" and asked me if I would be his advisor. Both of us are trying to understand who and what blogs really are for, and we both trust literature to make lives -- ours and other people's -- better. It's good news for me that my blogging life and my work life are coming together in some way. I hope that it's good news for Solomon, too.
While he continues to develop the reading list for his project, Solomon has agreed to read Howard's End at some point this semester. But in general, he's the one who's creating and updating our reading list, which we are treating as a work-in-progress that can and must be revised if reading way is to lead authentically to reading way.
Currently, Solomon has me reading selections from Vonnegut's Welcome to the Monkey House, which I'm loving. I have loved Slaughterhouse Five for years, and taught it for years, but this is my first foray into Vonnegut's short stories as a collection. Because I'm in full-throttle college-recommendation writing mode, I worried about when I would be able to read these stories, but when I opened the book on a rush-hour Red Line train last week and read the book's epigraph, from Thoreau -- "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes" -- I knew I owed it to myself as well as Solomon to make the time. (One other thing I've learned over the years: if you're going to start laughing all by yourself on a subway train, it's better to be holding a book, so people think you're laughing at something. It's also better if the book isn't the Bible.)
Solomon and I are planning to blog about Vonnegut -- maybe on my blog, maybe on his. So if you have the chance to read or reread "The Kid Nobody Could Handle," we hope you will join the conversation. I suspect it's a must-read for Cambridge Rindge and Latin School staff, since relationships with students is one of our front-burner concerns this year. The story was written in 1955, the year I was born, and arguably it reflects a different world from our present one in some ways -- and just the same world in others. Maybe there's something for teachers and parents to learn that won't involve the destruction of too many pricey musical instruments, given the fiscal realities and priorities of our schools these days.