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Five thoughts: Manchester City 1-0 Swansea

Finishing a Bad Book

The Prodgal Son
The Prodgal Son
Clive Brunskill

My first post disappeared into cyberspace due to nobody’s fault but my own so this one is late. And it’s probably just as well because I honestly don’t remember typing anything all that memorable that you all don’t already know: the game was duller than grease-pocked pans, Tevez 2.0 worked his tail off, Aguero is getting increasingly frustrated (okay, that might be news to some of you), we all feel bad for Micah and, will you look at that, we got a clean sheet.

But upon reflection, I didn’t retype my original Five Thoughts. Instead, I got to musing about how the game reminded me of what it’s like to teach literature to 14-year old students.

There is nothing worse for a student than boredom. Tension, anger and fear are all infinitely preferable feelings to boredom. Ask any student trapped in a classroom that is boring and they’ll tell you it’s like dying a slow death. Now, in the room, I can recognize a lesson that’s not working and either jazz it up or change the lesson entirely—anything but boredom—but that’s a lot harder to do with a book that my students absolutely, positively must read. Mind you, I prep my students for literature before they even finger the cover of Night, Of Mice and Men, or Romeo and Juliet—great works all but challenging for the novice reader of literature—but even with extensive prep, there are always going to be as many as a half-dozen students out of thirty that will be bored to the point of tears. Truth be told, once the books is opened, there’s not a helluva lot I can do to get them into the story other than encourage, cajole, and sometimes put in a few mild threats. Sometimes, I’ll tell my reluctant readers that if you can just get through the book, you’ll be entertained beyond measure. You’ll see the darkness in the relationship between Lennie and George, the awful revelations of the Holocaust and the beautiful agony of two star-crossed lovers. I tell students that every book has parts that are (ahem) less than exciting but every book has the opportunity to inspire.

Man City v. Swansea on October 27, year of our lord 2012, was a god-awful book, awash in mediocrity on nearly every page. The best that can be said is that, like a book we just had to read in school, we’re not worse off from the experience and we probably learned something we didn’t know before. Heck, somewhere out there, there might be an aspiring writer and soccer fan working on the extended metaphor of Tevez 2.0 and the story of the prodigal son’s return. More likely, we’re like students who just endured a few rough few weeks of reading. I tell such students that the good news from reading a bad book is two-fold: whether you know it or not, you learned something; you became a better reader, better informed and therefore a better reader. And secondly, the next book will surely be better; you are, after all, a better-informed reader.

I tell them such things and hope they are true. And I really hope it's true that the Citizens learned something from a very long and exceedingly boring effort.