Sunday, May 23, 2010

What, Me Cheat?

Stuff Boomers Love

The thing about teachers is this - they always expected us to read the book. Seriously. I mean, who can bother reading all 487 pages of Anna Karenina when the Broad Street Bullies were in the Stanley Cup finals, The Who is blasting from the eight-track and you absolutely need to go shopping for a new pair of Landlubbers? Teachers really need to appreciate you have a life.

Well, teachers may not, but someone did - and that someone was Cliff Hillegass. Cliff knew that teenagers didn't have enough time in the day, so he helpfully started publishing those little yellow and black lifesavers known as Cliff Notes way back in 1958. Marketed as "Study Guides," Cliff Notes did the reading for us, summarizing the plotlines of thousands of literary pieces (from Bleak House to The Bell Jar, the works of Shakespeare to Emerson's essays), identified themes, subplots and protaganists, and interpreted the deeper meaning that too often went over our heads as we tried to read while watching TV.

I guess the current day equivilent would be the kids who rent videos, hoping that the screenwriter stayed true to the book. (Good luck with that!) As an English major, I guess I should come down hard on the use of study guides, and point out that you lose the experience of the book itself by relying solely on these shriveled down versions.

And I do go on record as believing that. But in all fairness, I must admit that I have one or two skeletons of the yellow and black variety in my own closet.

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