- This is an epistolary novel told throughout a series of letters from Charlie to an unnamed recipient. The reader never finds out who the letters are addressed to, and it’s so dumb that I can’t even bring myself to care.
- The narrator’s voice is weak. He sounds like an adult male with a writing degree trying to sound like a ninth grader. Chbosky fumbles the ball when assuming the vocabulary of a teenager, and Charlie is constantly telling us that something makes him “happy” or “sad.” “Happy” and “sad,” “happy” and “sad,” on just about every page.
- There’s a big reveal at the end of the book that I just didn’t care about.
- He ends up in a psychiatric hospital. Oh, please.
After the dance, we left in Sam’s pickup. Patrick was driving this time. As we were approaching the Fort Pitt Tunnel, Sam asked Patrick to pull to the side of the road. I didn’t know what was going on. Sam then climbed in the back of the pickup, wearing nothing but her dance dresss. She told Patrick to drive, and he got this smile on his face. I guess they had done this before.
Anyway, Patrick started driving really fast, and just before we got to the tunnel, Sam stood up, and the wind turned her dress into ocean waves. When we hit the tunnel, all the sound got scooped up into a vacuum, and it was replaced by a song on the tape player. A beautiful song called “Landslide.” When we got out of the tunnel, Sam screamed this really fun scream, and there it was. Downtown. Lights on buildings and everything that makes you wonder. Sam sat down and started laughing. Patrick started laughing. I started laughing.
And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.
I have more to say about Wallflower, but I am going to stop here. We’re watching the movie tonight.
2. Taft by Ann Patchett
I started this post with Wallflower, but Taft was the first book I read after finishing my graduate class in 18th century poetry and prose, and I wanted to pick something contemporary and less challenging than, oh, I don’t know, Swift’s A Tale of a Tub. Lady McBrame had already read this book and recommended it, and I was happy to comply.
I haven’t read any of Patchett’s other novels, but Renee (that’s Lady McBrame’s real name) has read both Bel Canto and Run, and liked them both. Taft was appealing to both of us because it takes place in Memphis, and many of the places in the novel (Beale Street, Chickasaw Gardens, etc.) are places we know well.
The story is narrated by an African-American male, which was an interesting wrinkle to a novel written by Patchett, who is neither. It takes place largely in a bar on Beale Street that I imagined being located where the old Elvis Presley’s was. Right there by the Orpheum.
This was not the most artistically satisfying novel I have ever read, but coming as it did on the tails of Bronte, Rhys, Swift, Pope, et. al, it was a breezy read and much appreciated. And, following Bronte and Rhys, this was my third novel in a row written by a female author. I think that might be a first for me.
3. “If Hitler Asked you To Electrocute Somebody, Would You?” by Philip Meyer
We read this essay the one year I taught AP language, in 2009, and it had been that long since I’d revisited it. This tells the true story of the “Milgram Experiment,” where people were taken into a research laboratory and told they were part of a study in which they would be administering electric shocks to other people. The volunteers thought they were part of a study to see how we learn and use our memory, but, in fact, they were the subjects for the researchers who wanted to see how long they would go through with the horrible experience before refusing to continue with the torture. Pretty long, as it turns out. The essay is shocking. Positively shocking.
Here’s a link to the essay in its entirety.
I made a nice little lesson plan about compassion, sympathy, and empathy, and before we read this essay we looked at Brughel’s Landscape with Fall of Icarus and read “Musee de Beaux Arts.” We discussed how we react to the suffering of others. It was pretty successful.