School as the start of a lifelong hate of literature. Maybe I was lucky, or perhaps pre-disposed, but I had some great profs who actually engaged the books we were reading as well as the class. Don’t get me wrong, I still think my degree was a waste of $40G and fifteen years of my life (five in class, ten paying it back), but it didn’t make me hate literature. I guess what it mostly made me hate was that snivelling, smarmy breed of people who seem to professionally take literature and creative writing classes. Oh, and grad students. Sorry, but it’s true. They use language as though they’re tech junkies with the latest cell phone. They can’t stop pulling it out to show off in front of people, and they talk too loud in public places.
Despite the fact that I studied English Literature at university and went on to undertake a variety of bookish professional pursuits, my central recollection of English Lit at school is of how much I disliked most of the books that I read for my classes. It seems to be quite a universal feeling: “Oh, I read that at school” is a sentence often accompanied by a disdainful curl of the lip, even by passionate book-lovers. What’s the cause of this phenomenon? I’ve considered a few possibilities. One is the quality of the teaching. Listening to someone who lectures from a script they have been using for the past 25 years and with which even they are bored to tears is uninspiring, particularly if other students aren’t terribly interested, either. One of my classmates used to cry out in despair, “Too deep!” as our class was led through tedious line-by-line analyses of Jane Eyre and similar canonical landmarks.