Saturday, September 24, 2011

Touching books

In one of my classes this semester, the students (some of them) seem happier to watch and listen than to speak up and participate. It's as though all those crazy antics I'm performing at the front of the class--you know, asking questions--are less real to them than the PowerPoints I use to show pictures and key terms when I lecture. We've done groups, presentations, reading aloud, and lots of other things. I think they're coming around.

The other day, I was introducing an author, and I had them come up to the front of the class. It's not small class, but they all gathered around.

"You know, when you read from our anthology, it's easy to lose sight of the context," I began. "I'll bet you think that Famous Author lives in this anthology."

She's clearly lost it this time, their eyes said. How could an author live in a book?

Then I pulled out some books and some copies of the magazines in which FA had published. They passed them around and I talked about the kinds of places where FA had published, how authors usually published with the same publishing house over a period of time, and all that. I asked them to look at the jokes and drawings and what they noticed about the magazines.

They seemed interested and stayed that way even when we moved on to the next part of the class. How could you be indifferent to an author when you've held the actual publication in which FA published all those decades ago? At the very least, they don't think that FA lives in an anthology any more, and they have a pretty good sense of the kind of literary house in which s/he does live.

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