Monday, January 14, 2008

Glass left in a beach

I have probably committed a grave error, assigning Ander Monson's Neck Deep to my freshman class: a book filled with essays of wild shape and stance (the first is a several pages long outline). Predictably, they screamed this cannot be! An essay, that is. They are so afraid to not get it that it causes them to do exactly that. Once you give them permission to struggle, to work a little bit, with a text, suddenly their little heads bloom. For me, teaching isn't dumping vast stores of factage on students; it's really about nudging and cajoling and arm twisting. Little victories are the order of each day. It's maddening, at times, but fun too, if you have a perverse sense of the order of things. And I guess I do.

4 comments:

K said...

Order is the natural destination of chaos...but the path of order creates something different each time. Each snowflake bears and bares testimony of its own private tessilation.

Matthew Thorburn said...

They should hear him read from the book! I did a while back at The New School. Of course it's even crazier "live," but maybe would be more get-able. Well, Ander "live" is a wild ride in any case, I guess....

Dr. S said...

No, no, it's a good thing! The first time I taught autobiography, I put Nabokov's Speak, Memory first on the syllabus, and all my poor non-major freshmen said, "Oh! No! What! Is! This!" But then they a) loved it and b) were ready for anything.

Rock out.

Anonymous said...

Never a mistake to assign/support your talented friends from Alabama. I have done so many, many, many times and students always rise to the occasion. It's good to challenge them and it's always good to teach someone as smart and as generous and truly good as Ander is. I have taught Carly Sach's difficult and gorgeous book, Sarah Hannah's Inflorscence, even some of these amazing old monologues and a story written entirely in negation that I just tracked down. I have taught poetry in fiction workshops and stories to poetry classes. I am about to teach Jenny B's One Love and have taught many of the challenging poets including you, including yours and the students, though they struggle with the density and difficulty always say and produce interesting work.

Oh, and congratulations to you, BTW.