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.

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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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