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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