Monday, November 12, 2007

Kids Just Don't Understand

As I believe I explained earlier I reread The Red Badge of Courage in order to teach it to a group of students who are the “Academic Decathlon” team at our High School. I love the book because it is so deep and psychological and because of the amazing description of the battle. The students I taught it to hated it. I could not understand. They said things like, “it is boring,” “nothing happened” “it was confusing.” I told them that it was supposed to be confusing because war is confusing and the main character was confused. That was the whole point, but they missed it. They were complaining about Henry changing his mind all the time, but they did not get that war was confusing thus the main character was confused. It makes perfect sense but not to them. Then I told them about my book and they said that they would like it. I have no doubt that they would. My book is a result of pressures to entertain. It is exciting and fast paced. They would like it.

Therein lies my revelation. Many books are entertaining. That is what sells. Many books that are considered “masterpieces” are not as entertaining. Students and adults alike find them boring. I myself have never understood the likes of Falkner, and Knowls, yet they are considered masters. So here is the issue. Do I want to be popular or good? It seems that one cannot be both. Perhaps there are some who manage it, but I cannot name any. I personally feel that Twain, and Orwell among others manage it, but others would even find them boring. I do not know how to reconcile this, but it disturbs me. I suppose I will have to first go for popular and then hope for masterpiece. Both are probably years off, but I have to start somewhere, and The Sureshot was the start.

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