Let’s go back again to 1965 and Gateway Regional HS. For the first time in our lives we move from class to class. There are announcements on the loudspeaker. We pledge allegiance to the flag along with a disembodied voice. We have new classes, English instead of Reading, Earth Science instead of Science, Mathematics not Arithmetic, and on and on.
My English teacher was Mrs. Oglesby. For our first book report we are asked to do a presentation along with several other students. The presentation would summarize the book and illustrate the reasons you liked it. Nightmare. Horrible, horrible nightmare. Out loud performance was not my thing in 7th grade. You can probably understand since I was a midgety, skinny runt with a cowlick. My voice was as high as a birds. I felt like some monstrous geek and I was.
But there was no way out. As I recall I was hooked up with Jim Maddox and Steven Kaye and the book we selected was “Last of the Mohicans”. This was just about the only part of the assignment I liked. I was a James Fenimore Cooper freak. I read all his books. Books that were universally reviled by any competent writer or critic. But they had war and Indians and sacrifice and forests and blood and an acceptable amount of romance.
The girls all picked “Rebecca”.
This killed us right from the git go. :Rebecca” is a fairly easily summarized story while “Last of the Mohicans” has a jumbled up plot that isn’t clear for a hundred pages. Plus the girls were better at this. Their presentations were funny and inventive and informative. Thank God I can’t remember ours. I do remember it was a miserable failure. We tanked. I remember slinking away from the front of the class thankful only that we’d finished.
This deep sense of embarrassment and humiliation was to walk just behind me till senior year. You can only imagine what a joy it was to go to school each day.