Picture it, if you will. August, 1993. The Sunset. San Francisco. Fourth period. The interesting thing about the schedule at our high school was that the periods all rotated. Except fourth and fifth periods. Those were the “lunch periods” so they were at the same time every day. Except Fridays. When we didn’t have them at all. You practically had to have a genius IQ to understand the rotating schedule at SI. But I digress.
So every day, from 11:30 until 12:20, Monday through Thursday, we’d go to English. And it was taught by Fr. Murphy, the self-appointed “hardest teacher at SI.” He was a nice little man. He often “disrobed” by removing his clerical collar and tossing it across the room or putting it in his pocket. He said wonderful things that we remember to this day. Like, “Don’t let anyone touch you without asking permission.” And “What kind of arrogant, self-reverent stupidity is this?” And who can forget what he said to Josh Levin in philosophy? “I fear you are a radical skeptic, Joshua, and that you will never dialogue with anyone.” He once told a friend of ours that her essay was “a fine series of sentences.” How’s that for damning with faint praise? Once he vomited in class out of horror at the violence in Light in August, and then was upset with us for not being equally moved to emesis after reading King Lear. He also had many interesting opinions about his fellow teachers. When he found out that Mr. Phelps, our psychology teacher, was having us watch A Clockwork Orange in class, he said, “Not that movie!?! That horrible movie!” To this day that’s what I think when I think of that movie. That and the ceramic penis, of course. He also had a famous graduation speech he gave to all of his classes of seniors shortly before the end of the year that reduced me to tears (this is not necessarily that difficult). I don’t remember what he said, I just remember hugging my friend Rosanna for like 5 minutes after class that day. Is it any wonder that such as class would be memorable, even 18 years after the fact?
And this is brings me to our first blog reading assignment. We’re not going to do it in order, but we are going to reread the books we were assigned to read during our senior year of high school. To remember our 16-18 year old selves. And to finally finish some of them.
Our first book will be Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. This was my favorite book that we read that year. It was not Bethany’s favorite. But more on that later.