It all started sophomore year of high school when my English teacher decided to place Ethan Frome on our reading list. Now, normally, this would mean nothing. But if you’ve read that novel and understand how some English teachers can take literature too far… you might see how I was disturbed by the experience.
The book, in case you are not familiar, is a slow-moving period tale of bad marriage, adultery, suicide, and the color red. My teacher, so absolutely enthralled with the romance of the tale, decides to accompany our discussions of the book with her own reports about her romance with a certain gentleman. So in the midst of the horrific task of studying this novel–to which I have now assigned the title “Worst Assigned Reading Ever”– My teacher decides to start wearing red scarves nearly every day to school. When we asked her why this was (especially since even by Michigan standards it was warm out) all she could do was smile, sit on her desk, and swing her feet. I truly feel sorry for the boys in that classroom. It was definitely “girlie” territory. I could barely stand it.
My suspicion is this: that my teacher was dating a fellow Ethan Frome fan who delighted her at night with love letters, book readings, and red scarves. Oh the humanity. Sometimes English teachers just go too far.
But back to the subject line of the post: Books I will never read. What does Mr. Frome have to do with this? Almost nothing except that it gives me a chance to kvetch about a book that haunts me to this very day. If I had known how terrible it would be, I would have added it to this list. Sadly, I’ve lost that precious chance.
Let’s just start with two, shall we?
2. The Burning– Now, I’m judging this book not by its cover (that’s alright), but by its title alone. You see, in 2003 I took a May Term at a film academy where we split up into teams to produce a series of short films. The final project was a 10-15 minute film that had to include the following theme: grace. Now, if you’re overly spiritual, you may think that theme has something to do with my rejection of this novel. Not at all. Grace and burning may go together in a hellfire and brimstone sermon, but not in this blog. Actually, our film was also called “The Burning”, a title filled with melodrama and suspense, don’t you think? Yet this, again, is not why I’m rejecting this novel. The question is this: why did we name our film The Burning? Because the poor protagonist sap in our film spent the entire 15 minutes having to go to the bathroom, being thwarted at every turn. In the end, the “climax” of the film is quite a relief–as you can probably imagine. So “the burning” felt my our protagonist (which makes me want to pee just thinking about it) is already getting in the way of my enjoyment of this novel. It’s all I can think about. And who needs the urge to pee distracting from one’s delight in a novel? Anyway, this book claims to be about a ghost train and suspense… but if it doesn’t end with a guy standing in a field crying out with joy for his emptying bladder… it isn’t for me.
2. The last six books of the Left Behind series- Somebody out there saw this coming. I’ve complained about them before. And by George (whoever he is), I will keep complaining. I’ll admit it– I read the beginning few books in the series. At this point though I couldn’t even tell you how far I got because my brain liquifies at the very mention of the book titles. How many spinoffs can we have, LaHaye? Jenkins? do you really need more money in your overgrown pockets? Don’t you know you can’t take it with you? I realize you think your book is based on sound theology, and most of Evangelical America has bought into it to the point where any other reading of the Bible is followed by a gasp and a frown and a free tract titled, “Have You Been Left Behind?” Honestly, boys, who came up with the idea for 23 protagonists (most of whom die tragically in chapters-long action sequences) and the need for a chart at the beginning of each novel explaining who’s still alive and who’s not? When you need a chart, you’ve gone too far. I’m done–and have been done– with you and your stinkin’ series. Oh, and I won’t even get started on the movies.