MORE ON FEELINGS...

MORE ON FEELINGS AND STUFF. See, I read Brooks� column yesterday in a kind of light spirit, which I thought he intended (while recognizing, of course, the subtle conservative subtext, which David always sneaks in toward the end of such ruminative columns). Now, Linda H. comes along to remind me that there�s nothing light about these questions at all, that I�ve fallen into Brooks� well-sprung trap, and am only demonstrating that, when it comes to the phrase �male liberal,� the first word is fated always to pulverize the second.

My question is: Does anyone out there actually know what young people are being made to read today? Because Linda has a point when she talks about the generations of women who were made to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Moby Dick and such. I�m trying now to think back through my humble, non-elitist schooling and remember what I was in fact assigned to read. Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, certainly. Other major American writers. In my advanced high school years, some Milton and Pope and the like.

It wasn�t until I was a freshman at WVU (male aside: by the way, ranked #2 to #6 in major pre-season polls, in case you�ve missed it) that I was assigned my first piece of chick fiction -- Kate Chopin�s The Awakening. I confess, with some degree of shame, that I read it only grudgingly. It was assigned to me by a graduate teaching assistant who�s since become a friend (she�s a reporter with the Charleston Gazette) and who, in my opinion at the time, more than made up for forcing feminist agitprop on me by having George Harrison�s White Album picture up on her cubicle wall.

Anyway, I recognize now that The Awakening is an important work of fiction, and I assume that male college freshmen are a little bit more enlightened today than I was in the fall of 1978. But I do wonder what the canon consists of today, for high-schoolers and college freshmen in particular.

--Michael Tomasky

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