Thirteen Literary Wonders

Inspired by Doug’s post on his favourite books, here are thir­teen pieces of text that I read in school. Some I liked, some I didn’t.

    Ones I liked
  1. There were sev­er­al Norse Myths in one of the read­ers that I had in about Grade Five or so. They were there as sort of a com­pare and con­trast with a cou­ple of Greek myths. The only one that I remem­ber for sure being there was the myth of how Loki gave away–and then recovered–Idunn’s gold­en apples. To this day I still love the Norse myths. I think maybe it’s some­thing about Rag­narok that draws me to them, the knowl­edge that some­day, all the gods die.
  2. Mack Reynolds’ short sto­ry Burnt Toast fea­tures an inter­est­ing twist on the “sell your soul to the Dev­il” sto­ry. A man, des­per­ate for mon­ey, is giv­en this chal­lenge by a demon: drink one of thir­teen shots of liquor, one of which is spiked with poi­son. If you get the poi­son, I get your soul. For each drink that you fire back, you get an amount of mon­ey that goes up expo­nen­tial­ly (the first glass is worth $100, the sec­ond $200, the third $400, and so forth). The man accepts the chal­lenge, and keeps com­ing back for more. As the num­ber of shot glass­es dwin­dles, and the amount get high­er, the ten­sion mounts, until there’s only two glass­es left. What comes next? Ask me nice and I might tell you. [edit: Appar­ent­ly this sto­ry was first pub­lished in a 1955 Play­boy. I read it in a read­er at school. Real­ly.]
  3. The only Shake­speare play I’ve ever read, to date, is Mac­beth. It was all right. I watched the blood­less BBC ver­sion of it, and it was not all right. At the end, when Mac­duff holds Macbeth’s head aloft, it’s got red yarn hang­ing down from it.
  4. I much pre­ferred George Orwell’s Ani­mal Farm to its longer cousin, 1984. Then one day I was in a moun­taineer­ing store in Cal­gary, and there was a dis­play of walk­ing sticks. The ad cam­paign for them made me laugh: “Four legs good, two legs bad”.
  5. I know it sounds cheesy when peo­ple say things like “It real­ly makes you appre­ci­ate what you have”, but for me, the book that this sen­tence applies to is One Day in the Life of Ivan Deniso­vich, by Solzhen­it­syn.
  6. In the tenth grade, I read Ray Bradbury’s Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles, and quite enjoyed it. Years lat­er, some­one com­pared my writ­ing to Bradbury’s. Hmmm.…
  7. Arthur Miller’s The Cru­cible had an impact on me. Espe­cial­ly Giles Corey’s death, off-scene, pressed by stones. His last words were “More weight”, and then he expired.
  8. When I was about nine years old, my moth­er, a for­mer teacher, did an extend­ed stint sub­bing in one of the junior high class­es. They were read­ing Incred­i­ble Jour­ney, and some of the stu­dents were com­plain­ing bit­ter­ly about hav­ing to read it. Mom brought home a copy for me, and I burned through it in a few days. The next time some­one com­plained in class, she point­ed out that her nine-year-old son had read it, and that appar­ent­ly shut them up.
  9. There are sev­er­al comix (actu­al­ly, I sup­pose, they’re more accu­rate­ly ban­des dess­inées) that I used to read dur­ing library peri­od at my elementary/junior high school. It was a French immer­sion school, so we were encour­aged (read forced) to read French books in the library. The loop­hole was that there was a hefty col­lec­tion of Schtroumpfs and Astérix et Obélix comics in the library. There were a lot of jokes in the char­ac­ters’ names in Astérix–the dog’s name, en français, was Idé­fixe (in Eng­lish, he goes by Dog­matix).
  10. Speak White by Michèle Lalonde, a poem about the oppres­sion of the French lan­guage in North Amer­i­ca (if I remem­ber cor­rect­ly). I took this in first-year uni­ver­si­ty French.
  11. Not So Much

  12. Pret­ty much any­thing by Gabrielle Roy. She takes a long time to say… noth­ing. I sup­pose this might be an indict­ment of lit­er­a­ture in gen­er­al, but heav­en help me, GR was, in my view, the queen of bor­ing.
  13. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I have friends who insist I should give it anoth­er shot, and I may yet. The sto­ry didn’t appeal to me the first time, though. Then again, it wasn’t till my sec­ond read of Dune that I got into the sto­ry…
  14. See Dick Run. My grandmother’s favourite sto­ry about me is that, once, to prove to some­one that I could read (at the age of three), she had me read a Dick & Jane book. I read it cov­er to cov­er, closed it, and said, “Well, that was a stu­pid sto­ry.” And now I think every­one I’ve ever met knows that sto­ry.

Oth­er 13ers:

Tech­no­rati: Thurs­day Thir­teen

7 thoughts on “Thirteen Literary Wonders

  1. Burnt Toast reminds me of the Roald Dahl sto­ry, “Man from the South.” That’s one of my favorite short sto­ries EVER, so if you can find it, read it.

    Ani­mal Farm — yeah, that should have made it onto my list. Right up there with Lord of the Flies. I had Jake read both of them this year.

    Blood­less Mac­beth? The hor­ror. Find and watch Polanski’s ver­sion and you’ll be a believ­er.

    I remem­ber enjoy­ing Brave New World as a young teen. I have it in my library, have been mean­ing to take anoth­er look.

  2. I loved, and was alarmed by, Brave New World. But in the distopia genre, Mar­garet Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake are two of my favorites. Check ’em out.

  3. My tastes in dystopia lean more towards Stephen King’s The Stand and Robert McCammon’s Swan Song. Maybe I’ll try Oryx and Crake, the non-SF SF nov­el.

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