Friday, April 27, 2007

Dear Mr. Kenneally: You Made Me Hate Short Stories!

When I look back at all the crap I learned in CEGEP
It's a wonder I can think at all

During my first week at Marianopolis College (CEGEP) there was this BBQ on the grounds and this crappy folk band played 60s music while my new classmates, all dressed like hippies, danced around. It was the first time I had ever seen anything like it and I thought to myself, "Wow. So this is what rich people do!"

One of the songs the crappy band played was a modified version of "Kodachrome", with the words "high school" replaced with "CEGEP". And I thought to myself, "There is no way this will be worse than St. Pius X Comprehensive High School!" I was right; it wasn't. Except for First Semester English, taught by Mr Michael "Killer" Kenneally. That man made me hate short stories.

I realize that I've already blamed Mrs Gualtieri for making me hate poetry, so blaming Mr Kenneally for my hatred of short stories makes it look like I'm blaming a lot of random folks for my own youthful stupidity. But I assure you, I am not.

I have a crazy good memory, especially for stories, and for the past 14 years I have thought about four short stories I read in Killer Kenneally's class: "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" by Joyce Carol Oates; "The Chrysanthemums" by John Steinbeck; "Araby" by James Joyce; and "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" by Katherine Anne Porter.

For 14 years I have wondered if all the symbolism Mr Kenneally made us find in those stories was really there. And for 14 years I have thought about literature and whether the symbolism was put there on purpose, whether it naturally emerged, or whether it was in the eye of the beholder. And, the same as with poetry, whether it mattered a stitch to the appreciation of the work.

Finally, yesterday, I looked up those four short stories. Turns out that they're all available for free on the weeb. Unfortunately, because every friggin first semester English class in the whole wide world studies these stories, there is at most one interpretation of each of them available, and it's usually the one I had to learn.

Because this has haunted me for so long (just under half of my lifetime, hello!), I am going to devote my next four entries to each of these four stories. I don't know if anyone will care, or if anyone reads this, but at least it'll provide me with some catharsis.

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