It was the reading & writing bane of my childhood existence, The Book Report.
The mere concept of reading a book for the sole purpose of writing a teacher-prescribed review on it, well, it was anathema to my little writer-mind. By the fourth grade, I developed 2 quite separate systems to deal with this hemming in of my literary experience. I simply followed the same approach I’d begun to use toward my worst subject: penmanship.
There was the formal cursive taught in class that I used for school-world, and then there was my own creation, a personalized form of handwriting that, at times, does not stay on the line.
My Dual-Track Reading System worked thusly:
1. I read the books sanctioned by Teacher, usually selections from the Scholastic Book Club. It may be my aversion to joining any club, but I found the monthly offerings to be, with a few rare exceptions, flat-out bores. I also did not understand why I ought to spend my hard-earned nickels and dimes and quarters on paperbacks from Scholastic. Every month it was the same let-down for me, going over the list to check off three books and struggling to find even one that interested me. I don’t think there was any payola going on, but why only those books could be Book Review fodder is a question still unanswered for me.
I obediently wrote the book reviews for the juvenile fiction, in accordance with the ghastly formulaic order of execution (the book was being executed by academic firing squad); and the rather silly rules (word count, page length) and dictates (paragraphing, footnotes) that even the best of teachers foisted upon the growing tadpole mind.
2. I read the books that I found fascinating, typically ones for more “mature” minds. Not Harold Robbins potboilers or the latest best-seller in pulp fiction that was in the hands of every single person laying on the beach, up and down the Jersey shore each summer. My adventures in literary trash did not get started until I was a married woman and I read Grace Metalious’s Peyton Place which was brilliant in spurts.
My girlhood literary tastes ran toward Black Beauty; volumes of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books (“At Ease, Stories I Tell to Friends” by Dwight D. Eisenhower was a favorite excerpt); and Louisa May Alcott and her Little Women series. Little Men was less interesting than Little Women. Jo’s Boys left me cold. I also devoured the Born Free books: Born Free, Living Free, Forever Free. There was a libertarian theme going on there!
I’ve not seen the Little Women chick-flicks and don’t plan to do so, ever. Once I’ve read a literary classic that becomes beloved, any movie mal-adaptation robs vital pleasure from my memory-mind. I intend to keep Little Women pure and sacrosanct. I feel the same way about Black Beauty.
I did read (twice) the true story of The Sound of Music and I must say that the real Maria left much to be desired in terms of the ethical treatment of men!
The week before the week before Christmas 2018, Dear Husband and I ventured into the viewing of Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. I prefaced our tele-visual feast with detailed remembrances of my girlhood excitation over the Mr. Magoo coloring books that I joyously adorned with delightful nuances of Crayolas. Magoo was the Spokesman for Con-Ed, in particular, those Soft White GE Bulbs. Consolidated Edison is still the humongous utility company servicing Northern New Jersey and New York.
The cartoons I hadn’t paid much attention to, but Dear Husband certainly remembered the Magoo masterpieces from his youth. He informed me that there was a series of literary classics starring Mr. Magoo. And then he reeled off a few names of the Great Books that I’d not read and probably won’t read. I am reading, however, Le Comte de Monte Cristo, aloud, and thoroughly enjoying Dumas père.
Dear Husband conducted some research into the Mr. Magoo television series. He became so enthused over the plethora of animated tv productions with the near-sighted J. Quincy Magoo that we (truly, he and I) decided that Book Reports, by Mr. Milligan, on a few of the literary classics-as-cartoons with Mr. Magoo are in order.
And so, while I am enunciating my way through Le Comte, Dear Husband will be composing book reports on the Cartoon-Cliff-Notes of-Classic-Books. He is completely free of word-count and page-length restrictions although I shall check the paragraphing.
This post thus serves as a preview of coming attractions in the New Year 2019 for great books re-done in great ways.
Please do pull up a comfy chair and, if need be, don a pair of those new-fangled dimmer glasses for that harsh-bright-white glare from the computer screen. Magoo has his own pair of dimmers too!