Thursday, May 14, 2015

Anthony Burgess: Not Good Writing, Great Writing

                This Leo HS Sophomore is my personal Guidance Counselor

Mr. Apple*..... is a sophomore at Leo High School.  He has a magnificent brain wired to tangle of behavior circuits in need of some minor adjustment. In short, if a pane of glass, left leaning against a locker,  gets smashed, the search for the culprit is not an extended one.  He is a healthy adolescent male.  That is how we roll.   The man is working on his 16 year old impulse control circuitry, I'll say that for him. If I had half of his brains, I'd have one.  His academic chart is only now beginning to reveal an arrow pointing up to what some people might call achievement.

Since, Mr. Apple . . .happens to hold a past record of low-achievement due to his manly impulse to do whatever he feels like doing at the moment and has thickened his disciplinary jacket to RR Donnelly proportions, as well as remains  in possession of the one of sharpest minds on campus, I sought his counsel about my return to the classroom.

I presented Mr. Apple. . .. with a copy of Ralph Ellison's " King of the Bingo Game" and asked him to read it over the weekend.  I told him that it was an example of great writing in prose.

We talked about classroom management (consistency ) and agreed that students act up when bored with a teacher.  When they get bored with a teacher, the subject gets the same treatment.  It ain't pretty.

" Teacher'll says 'This is a great book' and leave it at that," my counsellor told me and added, "Well, it ain't great . . .it's boring. and then he/she gets mad  and says 'take out some paper it's quiz time.' Just because it's in a book don't make it great."

My Man!

Mr. Apple. . . .,  asked me about the difference between good writing and great writing.  I said, "You. "

What you bring to the reading of the book must meet what the writer who wrote it in a way that knocks you backwards.

Here is the best example that I know of in one paragraph.  This is from a brilliant short novel by brilliant guy -Anthony Burgess.
Outside, the main doors behind him, he was hit full in the chest by autumn. The doggy wind leapt about him and nipped; leaves skirred along the pavement, the scrape of the ferrules of sticks; melancholy, that tetrasyllable, sat on a plinth in the middle of the square. English autumn, and the whistling tiny souls of the dead round the war memorial.  from The Doctor is Sick

How's your forward motion?  We'll take a look at this paragraph tomorrow, Kids.  Read and see why I dare call it great writing.

* Fearless defensive back in football, a chess master , two time Gold Honor Roll Student  and undisputed King of Detentions!

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