I love teaching Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “Fall of the House of Usher” to my 11th graders. I love Poe’s language, I love his magnificent skill at crafting the perfect mood for his story, I love the way Poe could create characters and stories that stick with you not just hours after your finish the story, but months and years later. But mostly, I love teaching this story because invariably (as happened today), my class winds up having some variation of the following conversation:
Me: What the narrator is implying here is that… well… the Usher Family Tree didn’t have a lot of branches on it. Student 1: You mean they’re inbred? Me: Yep. Student 2: I bet that’s why he’s so sick all the time! Me: Very good. If a person has a recessive gene, then has a child with somebody else who has the same gene, there’s a much greater chance that the gene will become dominant. That can cause all kinds of different, unwanted conditions and abnormalities. From a genetic viewpoint, that’s the problem with inbreeding. Student 2: Are there other problems? Me: Of course. There’s the cultural reason it’s a bad idea. Student 1: What’s the cultural reason? Me: It gives me the flaming heebie-jeebies.
And now, like I did with the movies yesterday, it’s time to begin my running tally of the books I’ve read/am reading in 2011. I’m always a little ashamed that this list is invariably shorter than the movie list, even though it takes considerably longer to read most books (exception: Billy’s Looking at Me: A Family Circus Collection) than watch most movies (exception: Avatar). But I try to take comfort in the fact that I read more books in January than most of my students will read all year. As always, if it’s a book I’ve reviewed, I’ll make it a link.
Assholes Finish First (2010) by Tucker Max, B
Stupid American History: Tales of Stupidity, Strangeness, and Mythconceptions (2009) by Leland Gregory, B-