Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Carver, not Chandler

Part III of the IB English Higher Level course - which we complete during the second semester of Senior year - is a Genre study. I must choose four texts, all linked by genre and theme, from a list; however, one of the texts may be a 'World Literature' text not on a list, that also links with genre and theme with the other three texts.

I was excited that the author of The Big Sleep as on the list. Raymond Carver, or so I thought. I was all ready to teach the book, which I think the students would have really enjoyed - a private eye story written in the 1930s, dripping in noir and about the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. I loved the book when I read it a few weeks ago and thought the kids would, too. I was even thinking about what theme I could use to link it together with other texts, and was thinking about the corrupting force of money, which I could also link with Morrison's Song of Solomon.

But The Big Sleep is by Raymond Chandler, not Raymond Carver. I had them confused. I just found out last night.

However, I'm still interested in this idea of the gap between the poor and the rich, and exploring that idea through literature. I'm reading The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga right now, and it's this angry, railing text by a lower-class Indian kid written in the form of seven letters to the Prime Minister of China. It's fresh, funny, and a page turner, and I think the students would be into it. That would by my 'World Lit' text, as it's not on the list but comes from another country.

That book has been described as another Native Son, so I'm going to read that one next. A former student has told me it's a life changer, and the 10th grade teacher was very successful in teaching it this year, so I'm thinking about that one, too. From the descriptions, it seems that's a book about the gap between the haves and the have-nots, too, filtered through American racism. And, like The White Tiger, the protagonist is a charismatic murdered driven to the deeds by society - at least a bit. Or so it seems. (I haven't read it yet.)

So, if I'm doing this theme (We could call it "The Repercussions of the Gap Between the Rich and the Poor"), I have to find two more texts. Preferably by women, although I could put more women in the other section of the course if it's impossible. I'm pretty disappointed by the IB list, which hasn't been updated in over ten years and is pretty sparse on women.

However, here is the list from which I can choose. Anything jumping out at you as being about the Rich/Poor gap? I'm thinking about Atwood's Oryx and Crake (which I haven't read, but the description seems to fit... I'll read it next). A lot of the authors I'm unfamiliar with, and many have are pretty much unavailable (Bessie Head, for example, all her books are out of print... I find this is the case with many.)

I try to give the kids a wide experience, so I'm trying to do less Americans. However, I wouldn't mind doing something they'd love, or doing something that is from a culture that they're not that familiar with (for example, I'd love it if one of Louise Erdrich's novels fits, though I don't think they do...).

I'm teaching Morrison's Song of Solomon, and could squeeze it into this theme, but prefer to put that in the other part of the course. The other part of the course is one-from-each-genre: a Shakespeare, a novel, a non-fiction text, and a poetry collection. I have lots of ideas there, but the list is more limited than the one I present below.

Anyhow, I'd love any recommendations of any texts from any of these authors that you might think fit this rich/poor theme. Both The White Tiger and Native Son are also very angry in tone, so that's another possible connection I could make between texts.

Africa: Ama Ata Aidoo, Cyprian Ekwensi, Bessie Head, Chenjerai Hove, Kojo Laing, Dominic Mulaisho, Charles Mungoshi, Isidore Okpewho, Ben Okri, Chinua Achebe, Ayi Kwei Armah, Andrew Brink, Buchi Emecheta, Nadine Gordimer, Ngugi wa Thiong'o.

Asia: Amitav Ghosh, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Arundhati Roy, Vikram Seth, Mulk Raj Anand, Anita Desai, R.K. Narayan, Salman Rushdie.

Caribbean: George Lamming, Richard Lovelace, V.S. Naipaul, Ama Brodber, David Dabydeen, Caryl Phillips, Jean Rhys.

Europe: Auste, Bronte (both), Conrad, Defoe, Dickens, Eliot, Fielding, Forster, Hardy, Joyce, Lawrence, William Trevor, Woolf, Kingsley Amis, Iain Banks, Julian Barnes, A.S. Byatt, Angela Carter, Roddy Doyle, Margaret Drabble, Graham Green, Ishiguro Kazuo, Kipling, Lessing, Murdoch, Orwell, V.S. Pritchett, Evelyn Waugh.

North America: Atwood, Auster, Bellow, Davies, Faulkner, Findley, Fitzgerald, Hawthorne, Hemingway, James, Margaret Laurence, Anne Michaels, Morrison, Munro, Poe, Steinbeck, Twain, Wharton, Wright, Carver, Cisneros, Chopin, Erdrich, Hurston, Kinkaid, Alistair Macleod, Melville, Rohinton Mistry, Flanner O'Connor, Carol Sheilds, Silko, Twain, Alice Walker, James Welch, Eudora Welty.

Oceania: Janet Frame, David Malouf, Christina Stead, Patrick White, Tim Winton, Peter Carey, Janette Hospial, Henry Lawson, Katherine Mansfield, Olga Masters, Randolph Stow, Albert Wendt.

9 comments:

Hillary said...

She's not on one of your lists, but if you're looking for anger (subtle, but seething) and you're looking for class, I'd absolutely recommend one of Pat Barker's novels. Her Regeneration trilogy about soldiers reeling from WWI is superb (great themes not only related to war, but to class, difference, conformity, sexuality, truth, etc.). Liza's England, also set during WWI, follows life on the homefront for working class British women. Excellent.

Like I said, Pat Barker's not on those lists, but for future use, check out her novels.

Zack said...

Arundhati Roy's God of Small Things fits perfectly into that category, being a meditation on the pervasive nature of the Indian caste system in the small town, among a WHOLE BUNCH of other things. But then again, that's two Indian texts. But then again, let's not make the assumption that all Indian cultures are the same and that all Indians produce the same books. But that book--that's another life changer right there. You oughta read it.

Graham Greene does White/Imperialist guilt like it's his job, so he might be worth looking into as well.

Jackie said...

This may be more old-school than you're looking to go, but you could do Wharton's "House of Mirth"-- the female protagonist slowly slipping out of the upper class, really good on showing the importance of class, beyond dollar amounts, and also about the institution of marriage and the role it plays in class and wealth.

smoneil said...

Perfect combo for both theme, the desire to bring in women, and hitting different cultures. First, hit them with Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Poor governess meets rich socialite with an insane first wife secretly locked in the attic. Follow that up with Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea. Rhys didn't like Bronte's portrayal of the wife in the attic, so she wrote a metafictive tale showing how the socialite met the wife in the first place, in order to "redeem" the character.

This combo lets you hit on your themes of class disparity, anger and culture, while also opening the doors to metafiction (a major mover in contemporary novels).

Danielle H. said...

The Pearl by John Steinbeck: Not a woman, but an American author writing about a culture your kids would be unfamiliar with, and touching on themes of rich and poor.

Danielle

Teach Baltimore said...

Thanks everyone for the suggestions:

Hillary - I'll definitely check it out, thanks!

Zack - It's on my list. Also recommended on the English Companion Ning I'm on.

Jackie - I'll definitely check it out.

Scott - The only hindrance for me is that is the exact same curriculum as my predecessor used, with Rhys and Plain Jane both. And while I think it would be intriguing to try to work Jane and Native Son into the same curriculum, I think two very long novels is too much.

Danielle - What an interesting idea. I think that one's due for a re-read anyway.

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