Grapes of Wrath FAIL

Today a student told me that he’d ordered a copy of The Grapes of Wrath to read for my class, but the wrong book had been delivered. Turns out that some yahoo published a book with the same name as the Steinbeck classic. Maybe he thought he could get some sales through accidental purchases by students looking for school supplies.

There are clues that this is not the book you’re looking for. For example, it was published just a few months ago. Notice that people get the wrong book so often that Amazon suggests bundling this with another Steinbeck classic, Of Mice and Men.

But the reviews are priceless! Angry people feeling ripped off, confused people searching for meaning, and at least one reviewer who posted five-star praise about Steinbeck, for some reason.

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Semester Exam Follies

This week is semester exam week in my school district, which marks the halfway point of the year.  As students work on their big tests, I’ve found a few nuggets of positivity or, failing that, laughter:

  • While one class worked on their exams, I finished grading the book reports they turned in last week.  The most common feature was most students’ response to a directive to write a paragraph about their favorite and least favorite things about their books, and what they would change.  Nearly everybody said that they liked the parts that were happy, and that they would change the parts that were sad.  Everybody said they’d make it so that Simon and Piggy don’t die in Lord of the Flies.  Those who read The Lovely Bones said that they’d save Susie.  And students who picked The Grapes of Wrath…well, they’d keep Route 66 and pretty much turn the rest into a college road trip, if they had their druthers.  Luckily none of them read the Bible for their book report, or humanity might have been denied the Atonement altogether!
  • In fact, one girl was quite emphatic in her assertion of editorial license: “I would most defiantly change the ending.”  *ahem*  Yes, I’m sure you would.  I see several students every year who spell definitely that way. 
  • On a positive note, though, Continue reading

Whither the Classics In Mass Market Paperback?

51M7DGGWF0L._SL160_AA115_I own a mass market paperback copy of The Grapes of Wrath, but only because a teacher who was retiring a few years ago left it on a table in our work room with a note saying that his books were free for us to take. 

I own a mass market paperback copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls, but only because I found it left on the floor after a meeting once, and nobody responded to my email asking the rightful owner to come pick it up. 

I own a mass market paperback copy of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, but only because I bought it a year before Oprah picked it for her book club, after which it has only been available as a more costly trade paperback. 

That last one, I think, is the key to understanding why so many great classics are no longer 41AJfNSRUQL._SL500_AA240_available in mass market paperback and, indeed, haven’t been for some years.  The cheap, durable, accessible mass market paperback started going the way of the dodo, as I recall, in the mid nineties, just as things like $5 cappuccinos at Starbucks were becoming trendy.  See where I’m going with this?  As our society’s appetite for overpriced luxuries reached its fever pitch, we also acquired a tolerance–even a demand–for fancy, expensive versions of things that had previously been more common and affordable. 

Try this: go to Amazon.com and search for “Sound and the Fury mass market paperback.”  Look at the years next to the entries that come up.  Sad.  Continue reading

American Lit Review

A group of students working on a review assignment for my American Literature class this week got creative and decided to write a mash-up of all our major novels from throughout the year.  I think I’ll end up reading a silly story about Atticus Finch defending Hester Prynne on charges of witchcraft (said case to be financed by Jay Gatsby), all to be done as they float down the Mississippi River on a raft as they all look for work as farm hands in California.  That is, of course, if they can kill the white whale first.