October 2, 2009

Book Lies


This week's Booking Through Thursday asks if you've ever lied about reading a book.

I have my B.A. in British and American Literature! Of course I've lied about reading a book! Actually, I probably just lied about reading all the words in every book. But I remember Dr. Robert Knox asking me after his "Art of the Novel" course if I'd read them all and I admitted I wasn't finished with the Pynchon. But I did finish it over the summer.

No, the best book lie I told was in eighth grade. I already considered myself a reader, but was not much of a student. I was not impressed with my Language Arts teacher and did only the bare minimum for her. The one thing I remember enjoying about the class was that she showed us these videos of dramatic re-creations of famous short stories. They were probably from PBS--I don't know.

One time she gave us an assignment to read a biography. Apparently we were to have been working on this for some time because on this particular day she said that it was the day we were to do our reports. Now to her, a report meant handing us a stack of dittos with questions about our biography to fill out.

I had flaked out and not been working on this assignment at all. I stared at the pages for some time. Then I furiously filled out every question and turned it in. I thought to myself now this--this will tell me if she is a good Language Arts teacher or not. Because I made the whole thing up. I didn't make up the subject--Albert Einstein. But I made up a title and an author and while I knew some details of Einstein's life, I think I merged them with details from Thomas Edison's life as well. I talked about what I'd liked and didn't like about the book and even discussed some of the illustrations. Would she figure it out?

Nope. I got an "A+" and never told her the truth.

But trust me, that was the only book I lied about. I remember being in high school and berating a friend who bought those damned Cliff's Notes for everything. "It's faster and more entertaining to just read the books, for crying out loud!" He told me I was an idiot and showed me the questions at the end. Sure enough, on the test that Friday the questions the teacher gave us were the very same ones. Looking back on it, I'm surprised I went into literature with such bad role models.

No, I'm glad I did. I'm glad I went somewhere in which reading the book meant something and all the Cliff's Notes in the world wouldn't have helped you really understand what was going on.

No lie.

4 comments:

Tina Kubala said...

I agree using Cliff Notes to avoid reading is concept I cannot understand. Using them as intended, to better understand the text, is smart with tough books.

I used to live in a small town with a major state university which I didn't attend. I worked at a local retail store as an assistant manager. On multiple occasions, I read novels for my young college student coworkers. They'd flat out told me they weren't going to read them and I never wrote a paper for anyone. I would discuss the themes with them and mark some worthwhile passages.

Harrell Elizabeth said...

I'm glad you went there, too! What a trip it has been!

Michael Taylor said...

I had a high school LA teacher who used to claim she had a list of errors and omitions in Cliff Notes. She bragged about making her tests in such a way to exploit those errors and omitions. She was probably just bluffing but it convinced me to read the material for myself rather than trust somebody else's synopsis.

Teacherninja said...

I'd believe her. Problem is nowadays there's much more online than just Cliff's Notes. Of course, it's still more entertaining and faster just to read at least most of the real book, for crying out loud.