Good Reading : September 2015
GOOD READING SEPTEMBER 2015 7 day? Why would I do such a useless thing? My time with you is short, only 34 weeks of classes, and I will not waste it arguing about the mer its of this short story or that poem. Why would I, when all such opinions are subjective, and no final resolution can ever be reached?’ ‘Time is the answer,’ Mr Ricker said on the first day of Pete’s sophomore year. He strode back and forth, antique bell-bottoms swishing, occasionally waving his ar ms. ‘Yes! Time mercilessly culls away the is-stupid from the not-stupid. It is a natural, Darwinian process. It is why the novels of Graham Greene are available in every good bookstore, and the novels of Somerset Maugham are not – those novels still exist, of course, but you must order them, and you would only do that if you knew about them. Most modern readers do not. Raise your hand if you have ever heard of Somerset Maugham. And I’ll spell that for you.’ No hands went up. Mr Ricker nodded. Rather grimly, it seemed to Pete. ‘Time has decreed that Mr Greene is not-stupid while Mr Maugham is ... well. Not exactly stupid, but forgettable. He wrote some very fine novels, in my opinion – The Moon and Sixpence is remarkable, my young ladies and gentlemen, remarkable – and he also wrote a great deal of excellent short fiction, but none of it is included in your textbook. Shall I weep over this? Shall I rage and shake my fists, and proclaim injustice? No, I will not. Such culling is a natural process. It will occur for you ladies and gentlemen, although I will be in in your rearview mirror by the time it happens. Shall I tell you how it happens? You will read something – perhaps ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ by Wilfred Owen. Shall we use that as an example? Why not? Then in a deeper voice that sent chills up Pete’s back and tightened his throat, Mr Ricker cr ied ‘ Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, / Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge ...’ And so on. Cetra-cetra. Some of you will say, This is stupid. Will I break my promise not to argue the point, even though I consider Mr Owen’s poems the greatest to come out of World War I? No! ‘Time will pass! Tempus will fugit! Owen’s poem may fall away from your mind, in which case your verdict of is-stupid will have turned out to be correct. For you, at least. But for some of you it will recur. And recur. And recur. Each time it does, the steady march of your matur ity will deepen its resonance. Each time that poem steals back into your mind, it will seem a little less stupid and a little more vital. A little more important. Until it shines, young ladies and gentlemen. Until it shines. So what book did you struggle with yet now shines and shines? FORE WORD TONY CAVANAUGH is a writer and producer in film and television, and the author of the ‘Darian Richards’ crime series. See page 32 TIM GRAHAM is gr’s deputy editor. He has just finished reading The Third Man Factor: Surviving the impossible by John Geiger. See page 54 SOFIE LAGUNA is the recipient of the 2015 Miles Franklin Award for her novel The Eye of the Sheep. See page 14 PATTI MILLER is an award-winning Australian author who has a special interest in teaching others how to write effective memoirs. See page 18 And Baxter; I wish so much that he could read.