“Ironically we were studing the scarlet letter. Isn’t it always the way? The book you read in class always seem to have strong connection with whatever angsty adolescence trauma is going on. Exept for Huckleberry Finn, ’cause I don’t know any teenage boy who ran away with big hulking black guy.”
“Did you hear than Brandon ran away from home? Yeah, totally. He left his parents a note that said, ‘I’m gay, *******!’ and then he skipped town with some big hulking black guy.”
“…My apologies to Mark Twain.”
– Easy A
Mum called last night because she’s going to throw Beowulf into the mix for her class on Western Civilization this term and needed to know the pronunciations for some of the names, as she’s more at home with Greek and Latin.
And I knew the answers. ‘Cause I’m a nerd.
My knowledge of Beowulf was what initially won over the seemingly alarming and crusty high school teacher who went on to become my mentor and good friend to this day. I’d read it for the first time in 8th grade and fell in love with Early English literature, so I knew whereof I spoke when I confronted him (trembling) about a test question that I was sure I’d got right. He turned a baleful eye on me before apparently deciding not to disembowel me, and decided that if I could show him the reason for my answer in the text, he’d give me the points. I could and he did.
And as it turned out, for a special few students who showed a genuine love to literature and history, he had heart of butter. And once he loved you, he loved you. I was one of the few who could misbehave at all in his class, and my mates didn’t even mind me being a teacher’s pet because I alone could persuade him to postpone tests when more study time was needed. We debated vigorously across four classes for two years. He wrote me glowing recommendations when I was applying to universities. I still send him Christmas presents, he sent me the most lovely card and note for my wedding, and we exchange lengthy emails every couple of months.
All because of Beowulf.
See, kids, those required readings pay off eventually.