In the Lake of the Woods

Have you read this Tim O’Brien novel? Carolyn Wheat had us read it in one of her creative writing classes some 12 years ago. I’ve read it once since then. Before school started last year I chose it for one of the titles we bought and I had my Comprehensive Reading class read it. They were kind of "eh" on it, though they did say it was the best book I assigned.

I gave it to my two senior AP classes early this week and they are tearing it up. They love it. One of them said it’s the second best book she’s ever read, the Bible being the first. They’re getting in trouble for reading it in other classes.

Of course, they don’t know how it ends yet. hehehe It’s so deliciously evil. I should hate Tim O’Brien for how the book ends, but it is sooooo good, especially for teaching. If you haven’t read it, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a love story. It’s a mystery. It’s a bit of a horror story. It’s just damn good.

That, of course, leads them to the inevitable question: "Why can’t we read books like this all the time?"

If it was up to me … But it’s really not. We have to read the Billy Budd, Sailors and The Canterbury Tales and a lot of other boring stuff. (Okay, I like Billy Budd, but I understand where they’re coming from.) As I told them, this is my first year teaching AP. We’re learning together. I’ve learned that I need to mix in some newer novels to break up the stuff written in older styles. The trouble is that we don’t have a lot of late 20th century novels, and what we have, well, I haven’t read.

Speaking of the AP class, though, I have to give a shout out to Mardel’s. One of the OKC stores donated 30 copies of the God’s Word translation of the Bible for use in my class. These books retail for $35 each, so that’s a nice chunk of money they handed over and it’s much appreciated. And before anybody gets their panties in a twist thinking I’m teaching religion in a public school, you can just back off. I’m teaching it as literature. Specifically, we are looking at the Bible stories most often alluded to in other literature, like East of Eden and the Cain and Abel story. Considering that the girl who said In the Lake of the Woods is her second favorite book also calls me Satan, I don’t think I’m in much danger of being accused of violating seperation of church and state. Something about blaspheming in class when I say turning in assignments to the baskets under my 1976 KISS poster is really making an offering to the gods of rock … Anyway! Thank you to Mardel’s!

My regular English IV class should have stumbled their way to the end of A Tale of Two Cities Friday. Most did not, and I’m sure did not do it over the weekend. They’re a frustrating lot. How can you not like this novel? How can you not like Dickens? We start watching the 1935 movie tomorrow. Yes, they’ll gripe about that because it’s black and white. Man, when I was in school all the movies were in black and white and we were thrilled to see them. A couple of the girls have already told me they’ll go to sleep because, "Black-and-white movies just don’t catch my interest." Whatever.

Writing news? Roy is sending me money for Little Graveyard on the Prairie. Money! From a publisher. That shouldn’t seem as unusual as it does. Otherwise, I’ll just reiterate what I said earlier: Collaborating rocks! At least, when you have a partner as great as the one I’m working with it does.

4 responses to “In the Lake of the Woods”

  1. I’ve only read O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” and was absolutely blown away (no pun intended). Looking over the synops of “Lake” and having read O’Brien I can say that yeah, I have no doubts that that story is probably deep and trenchant…like Marianas Trench trenchant and deep.
    When we read “The Things They Carried” a lot of folks in the lit class didn’t get what they were reading. As a veteran, the son of a veteran, and grandson of a veteran (it goes back) —as someone who’s dealt with Vietnam era vets daily … O’Brien’s work disturbs on an emotional curb — if you’ve never really been affected by war, or war time, I can see why a response would be ‘eh.’

  2. Money! Awesome!
    (Mardel’s is usually very nice about things like that)

  3. “Black-and-white movies just don’t catch my interest.”
    Yeah, not enough explosions and car chases and too much talking. I’ve heard that so many times before – from adults! LOL! Show them some Charlie Chaplin. 😉
    And I thought Billy Budd was boring and couldn’t get through it. Maybe I should give it another go as a mature adult. (In all my free time.)

  4. I love O’Brien, and yes, IN THE LAKE OF THE WOODS was great. GOING AFTER CACCIATO and THE THINGS THEY CARRIED are also amazing. Good choice for your class!

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