OK, so remember the essay contest? The one with the essay I really loved? It didn’t win. The essay that won was the only one of the bunch that I didn’t finish reading.
Now, please, understand that I’m a literary critic. I’m trained to read every word. Skipping anything is so hard for me that it’s an effort not to read every word on a menu. But this essay I couldn’t finish. It was truism meets bromide meets platitude. Everything in it was so unimpeachably true and so excruciatingly obvious that I was assaulted by bouts of mouth-rending yawns with every new sentence.
Apparently, though, everybody else loved it. Nobody else on the jury was a scholar of literature.
To me, worthwhile reading is the kind that surprises me. If you can’t give me any fresh content, try for an engaging, exciting format. But these sad good-kid essays that rattle off trivial ideas one was told are correct drive me up a wall.
This is why I love teaching Spanish. The material is so new to the students that the work they produce is free from the shackles of received truths.