another story from AP English
February 24, 2014
It’s a wonder I ever became an English major, what with the terrible time I had in AP English in high school. But I think part of the reason I had a terrible time was I loved the literature. This is the class where I discovered Sylvia Plath and Tom Stoppard. But the teacher… I argued with her. A lot.
So, in comments on the previous post I already told the story about this awful textbook we had that divided stories into “real” literature and popular literature, or “crap,” pretty much just like that (the book earned my eternal ire by placing Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game,” one of my favorite short stories at the time, in the “crap” category). So one day as part of a group presentation I did a fake commercial with a blender where I announced “This is your brain on popular literature,” blended an apple, and said, “Any questions?” The entire class cheered. The teacher did not. (I wonder, if I tried to bring a blender to high school now, would I be suspended because of zero tolerance policies?)
This was also the class where I pointed out that you can sing every Emily Dickinson song to the tune of “Yellow Rose of Texas.” (There are sing alongs on YouTube. Proceed at your own risk.) Now, first off, you can’t sing every poem to that tune, and second, that just means it’s a popular meter and there was no reason for Dickinson not to use a popular meter. In my defense, I would not have pointed this out to the class if I didn’t think everybody didn’t already know it. Turns out, nobody else knew it, and I was subsequently blamed for ruining Dickinson for everyone. (My response: “If that’s all it takes to ruin Dickinson for you, you don’t deserve her!”)
It would have ended there, except test day came along. The test, the big AP test that had kids puking in the bushes beforehand. As part of the AP English test, we were given a poem cold, that day, that we had to do a close reading on and write an essay about in the space of forty minutes or so. We cracked open our test books: Yes, it was an Emily Dickinson poem. And there were two dozen high school kids humming that song under their breaths. If looks could kill, I’d have been a steaming pile of goo that day.
I, however, thought it was the funniest damn thing that had happened all year. I could not stop laughing. And I got a 5 out of 5 on the test.