Now, nearly twenty-five later, I find myself reading the books my high school age grandson is reading. Yes, the canonical chestnuts. Why now? Two reasons:
1) I’ve been working on something for a long time and I don’t want to be unduly influenced by popular, contemporary trends or voices. I’m weak-minded, and a bit of a mimic too. So, I’m reading things nobody would try to imitate.
2.) It can’t be good for you to stay ignorant forever. It just can’t.
It was the first week of February, 2011; I was sitting in a small room I’d built onto that house in Phoenix in 1981, reading a book I should’ve read in school circa 1966 in Niagara Falls, and listening to voices from Cairo by way of NPR in Washington talking about the same ideas Dickens had considered in London in 1859, as he wrote a fictionalized account of events that happened in Paris in the 1780’s.
Times change. Sure. Not too many men today will admit to being vain of leg. Ok, maybe RuPaul, but not too many lawyers. Still, once you get past the overstuffed nineteenth century verbiage and the melodramatic love story, that high school level classic still has something to say to us, even to a twenty-first century digital boy like me.
Part Two: How the classics can help us in the writing program.