I read the way someone might smoke, inhaling the entire package.
“The secret of joy in work is contained in one word-excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.”
― Pearl S. Buck
Isn’t this a lovely concept? And perhaps we as educators ought to post it, to remind students that “not liking something” may be remedied through application; learning How to do it- I read it as a reminder to constantly keep learning…
– Began reviewing the use of genres and decided to choose one writer to see if this writer was placed in the same category all the time.
Pearl S. Buck, perhaps best known for THE GOOD EARTH, and a winner of the Nobel Prize for fiction was fortunate to have had published over 200 items. A modern classic, this book (part of a trilogy) is variously listed as fiction, historical fiction, American fiction (this makes me smile as the setting is definitely China) classic fiction, literature, and humanitarian. Another text by the same author, God’s Men, receives the following, China text, (yet the setting moves back and forth, China, England and United States), theology, and philanthropy. Both books portray Western missionaries in China, both books look at the rise and fall of family status as a result of War and outside (the family) issues. Both books convey the author’s genuine understanding of people, both in China, and in western society – one book received the Pulitzer, the other, few appear to have read.
Spoiler alert: I very much enjoyed both books as a young adult and when rereading them over the years as an educator, questioned which parts I might choose to highlight. And because there is not always time to thoroughly review a trilogy with students, have looked at God’s Men, in depth. The text is available at Toronto Public Library as a reference only, not hold-able (glad I have a personal copy). The Good Earth may be read on line, borrowed from one of many branches, listened to as an audio book, and a movie clip is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iEREqQjjzU
Back to the classification system. Instead of simply having students (of all ages) quickly list the genre of a book they had completed, (often by copying the listing seen on the back jacket) I decided to have us look at how many other ways a book may be described; like people, many texts may serve different purposes. Mother, sister, teacher, friend- each title suggests a different role, yet many of the actions a person performs might overlap. In similar fashion, texts can be used by readers to fulfill different functions. While genres might help us narrow down a search for a particular read, and certainly do help one navigate a library and a bookstore, literary analysis involves a questioning if indeed a book “fits” into one type, and may be used to move beyond the novel into a discussion about typecasting in general. Moving into the real world, discussing both, labels and what is meant by stereotyping, allows a novel study to grow into student generated and perhaps heated (you have been warned) interactive discussion/debate that may veer into entirely new directions. But that IS the beauty of student generated work, and brings back the novel (“new”) in novel study.