Not long ago, I wrote about some of my favorite short stories, particularly ones that are oh, so good to read during
this wonderful time of the year—October into November. Of course, there will always be selections of Poe’s best works on my lists and the canon of Sherlock Holmes’ stories so faithfully given to us by Dr. Watson, via the talents of Arthur Conan Doyle. But any list would also have to include many from my school days—those stories I was assigned to read in English reading classes from grade school on up.
Like any young person, I had no idea at the time just how much of an impact many of the assigned reading experiences would have on my life. Writing now, eons later, I can reflect and truly appreciate just how good it was to be “forced” to delve into stories—short & novels—and I would love to turn back time just a bit to re-read many of them in that youthful time frame and, perhaps, glean even more “stuff” from them.
Some of my most wonderful memories stem from my discovery of many a story and author I read for a class assignment. And I really believe that my eventually becoming an English teacher was inspired by the wealth of literature I had the pleasure to experience with each passing year growing up. Granted, I was not enthralled with everything I was expected to read, but there are certain ones that are still with me, all these many years later.
For example, the name of Ole Rolvaag evokes fun memories as an 8th grader, reading excerpts of Rolvaag’s classic Giants in the Earth, which was about Norwegian pioneers trying to make a new life for themselves in the Dakotas in the 1870s. I became caught up in the will and the drive of those determined pioneers. Plus, I would never forget the author’s unique name, one that rolls off the tongue.
Later, in high school, I read George Eliot’s Silas Marner, a book that has not been taught in many years, which is a shame in my opinion. The book, which is about a reclusive weaver in the 19th Century, is a beautiful tale of hope and redemption and human goodness, and the author makes some swipes at organized religion throughout. I found the book better and better the farther I got into it. Of course, having an enthusiastic and passionate teacher, who brought the story into our lives and helped us understand the marvelous characters that populate the book, made it all the more worthwhile and inspirational. Because I remember gaining a greater appreciation and love of literature through the efforts and passion of that teacher, I cannot help but believe that my desire to become an English teacher myself had a big “push” from that wonderful literature class in the summer of 1966.
Of course, there are so many more examples of the literature that influenced my life in one way or another, and it will be fun, from time to time, to write about those. For now, though, I will let my mind travel along with those Norwegian pioneers as well as paying a visit to Raveloe, where Silas Marner still tries to find his spot in that world and to clear his name. These are wonderful memories for a sunny and chilly late-October morning….CortlandWriter