Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Book Report from Hell

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.


Jim Maddox said...

I remember thinking, "Hey, I know this story, because I had read the Classics Illustrated comic book version and I had seen the Randolph Scott movie. Indians, British soldiers, war and adventure. I don't remember if our report was bad or not, I was always comfortable talking in front of a class. I don't remember much about actual class time from Seventh Grade. We'll have to search Canada to find Steve.

Anonymous said...

Loved looking back in time..and glad someone else remembers and puts it in writing. Graduated 74 Gateway/Wenonah too ! Our school memories are so different than the school shootings and machete attacks my kids will remember from their schooldays(in what was/is town much like Wenonah). At least the girls were safe from wearing the blue bloomer gym outfits we had! Keep writing!