Monday, June 01, 2009

Spoiling Charlotte

The mighty Normblog has a nice post about the way the notes in classic editions of novels give away plot details, assuming we have all read it before. Norm cites Nick Hornsby's neat line about this:
Even the snootiest critic/publisher/whatever must presumably accept that we must all, at some point, read a book for the first time. I know that the only thing brainy people do with their lives is reread great works of fiction, but surely even James Wood and Harold Bloom read before they reread? (Maybe not. Maybe they've only ever reread, and that's what separates them from us. Hats off to them.)
I remember teaching Jane Eyre to a first year group a couple of years ago. We were in the final week of the unit, so all of them should have finished reading it weeks before. I was trying to get them to think about the ending, and to compare it with conventional endings a la Jane Austen. I mentioned the classic line "Reader, I married him" at which one member of the class exclaimed "What? She marries him! Stupid cow!"