November 01, 2004

November is "Required Reading Month"

Back in September when I took a sabbatical from reading science fiction, as a reaction to my ODing on the cheaper variety in the previous month, I had fun expanding my horizons a bit, even though I didn't manage to get through everything I had planned.

This month I want to try something different. My favourite course in high school was the OAC (our late lamented grade 13, for those of you outside of Ontario) English course, which was basically a survey of 20th century literature: Canadian, American, and British. It was such a fun course that I devoured the entire reading list in a very short time. My memory of that year is a little sketchy, but I either had the the entire reading list finished a semester before taking the course (thanks to my girlfriend who was a year ahead of me), or I inhaled the entire course in the four days of travel time on the train while on a band field trip.

Anyway, once I've got all my current crop of books off my plate, I want to re-read all the books on that course list. It's all pretty good stuff, or at least influential or important in some way. There were three core novels that everybody read:

  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
  • Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

In addition, there were a number of books that were optional and could be used to supplement the core works while writing term papers:

  • Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

There may have been other books on the optional list, but I don't recall them at the moment, if so. To that list I am also going to add Tortilla Flat by Steinbeck, which was not part of the curriculum, but my girlfriend did get special permission to make use of it, and I remember her getting a real kick out of it.

As I recall, I enjoyed the majority of the works on the list, but there were a few clunkers as well. I'm literally twice the age I was back then, so it'll be interesting to see how the intervening years - and an English degree - have changed my views.

(In the unlikely event that any of my readers happen to have:

  • graduated from Espanola High School in the years of, say, '88 through '91
  • taken the OAC modern English course from Messrs. Stos or Blackledge
  • remembered what-all was on the syllabus

then refresh my memory by way of a comment, please.)