Wednesday, April 06, 2005

On a Promised Topic

The good news is that I can release a little of my library list guilt. I just realized that at least 17 of the titles on that list are not so much things that I want to read as things that I want to remember the existence of so that I might someday go back to read them. This means that there are not 50 books I'm trying to cram into my brain at the same time--only 33.

As advertised: Why I Didn't Finish Up the Down Staircase. I expected a book about teaching, and this is a book about having a job. This young woman, just out of graduate school, who has studied English with passion and has been excited to share it with students arrives at her first teaching job to discover that it's not what she expected. This is exactly what I signed on for--excellent!

But what she found had nothing at all to do with students or connecting to people. It was about bureaucracy, bosses who micromanage trivial things, other bosses who are oblivious to reality, janitors who don't show up. There has been one scene that even involved students, and that was based entirely arounder there being too many directives from the office and a broken window that nobody would clean up. It was in no way about students.

The structure of the novel makes this feel inevitable. It's an assemblage of memos from the office, clippings from the school paper, notes written back and forth between teachers, and letters to the main character's friends. This leaves a lot of room for her to talk about the nitty gritty of her day-to-day, but not a lot for actual interaction with people.

It's too bad--I saw the play based on this book once, and it was quite good. Probably there's a story in here somewhere, but it's a long book, I'm not enjoying it, and I've got other things to do. I'm going to read Dangerous Minds, though, because I suspect that book will fulfill my need for a story about teachers reaching out to kids who aren't eager to learn.

Also, a note on my observation that books I read come in waves I can't necessarily predict: I'm currently reading three books about people with genetic abnormalities. Expecting Adam, about a woman who finds out her unborn son has Down's Syndrome, Middlesex, about a child who is born with ambiguous genetalia and is raised a girl, only to grow up and find out himself a man, and Fearless, a really TERRIBLE young adult book (by the Sweet Valley High author, if that tells you anything) about a girl "born without the fear gene." Ugh.

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