Beth's Book Review

The Truth About My Reading

82173f913f526506b80a_Beth.jpg
70bf50d1ee1fa3b2792c_Beth_1.jpg
82173f913f526506b80a_Beth.jpg

The Truth About My Reading

I didn't get my Composition and Literature teacher at Montclair State College at all. A crusty old man with a dour disposition, Mr. Smith always seemed angry and rude. He appropriately intimidated freshmen, even me, an English major, who found this common core course beneath my dignity. Frankly, as a graduate of Highland Park High School, and a survivor of Mrs. Yanowitz's Senior Honors English class, I had an over-rated opinion of my abilities, as do many freshmen.

Mr. Smith's first assignment was to write an essay entitled “The Truth About My Reading.” I don't remember what I said in the essay, but I got the highest grade in the class, a C+. Of course, I was insulted by the grade because my grammar, punctuation, spelling, and compositional development were impeccable. I even gaged the margins on my typewritten essay right and didn't have to retype it three times to get it done correctly. What I didn't realize in the fall of 1967 was that the purpose of Comp and Lit I was to bring freshmen down to earth regarding our pretentious notions of our abilities and quality of our reasoning skills.

Sign Up for E-News

So now, fifty years after enduring Mr. Smith, that irascible bastard, and writing an essay on “the truth about my reading,” I have a few insights that I could have used with the assignment back then.

For students of my generation, the purpose of our half-day kindergarten was to help us to develop social skills. Reading instruction began in the first grade. On Day 1 of that grade, Mrs. Kuyper, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Mary Martin in Peter Pan and wore crystal beads that made her sparkle like a princess, divided the class into three reading groups: the Fairies, the Bluebirds, and the Brownies.

Although we only six years old, we were astute enough to figure out that the Fairies were expected to be the best readers in the class, the Bluebirds, which was the bulk of the class, were the mediocre students, and the Brownies were the class dummies. I was mortified to be a Bluebird. My best friend, Betsy, was a Fairy, and I hated that we weren't in the same group. I did not understand on what basis these groups had been created, but I understood enough to know that I had been pegged as a middle of the road student at the age of six.

And did I truly think about this in the first grade? Yes, I know that I did. The memory is as bitter to me today as it was then.

Nevertheless, whoever had made me a Bluebird hadn't figured on one thing. From the moment that I learned the alphabet, I loved to read. Quickly I proved myself to be a voracious learner, and I accomplished something that proved to be even more astounding than being a Fairy from the start. I MOVED UP! Moving up was very hard work because I had to complete the Bluebird reading assignments while sitting with the Fairies at the same time to catch up with them. Somebody had obviously MADE A MISTAKE! And thus, I transcended to beeing a Fairy!

When I was in the second grade my mother took me to the township library and helped me to get a library card. I took out two Nancy Drew mysteries, read them both in one night, and demanded that my mother take me back to the library the next day. I quickly devoured the Nancy Drew and Bobbsey Twin series, and moved to classics like Black Beauty and Robinson Crusoe. Reading became as essential to me as eating, watching The Mickey Mouse Club, or playing with my friends. Early on I announced to my family that I intended to become a writer, and never once wavered from that goal throughout my life.

Aside from daily jaunts to the library and ruining my vision by reading by the hall light until late at night, my father, an avid reader himself, signed me up for a children's book club. Each month I received two of the All About books, which Dad wrapped carefully in plastic covers, as he did his Book of the Month Club offerings. I also received Hi-Lights Magazine as well.

Each night as Dad washed the dishes and I dried them, he would ask me about what I had learned in history class that day and what I was reading. One evening he escorted me into the living room, the site of his immense personal library. Young adult fiction did not exist as a genre yet, and Dad announced that it was time for me to move onto adult fiction. The first book that we chose together was The Last Survivor, a novel about Custer's last stand. (By the way, the final survivor was Custer's horse, a very touching moment in the story's last moments).

That novel whetted my appetite for historical fiction, and I quickly became acquainted with the works of Irwin Shaw, Irving Stone, James Michener, and Herman Wouk (author of my two favorite books of all time, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance). From these great authors I learned about Mary Todd Lincoln, Rachel Jackson, Michelangelo and many other great historical figures. Then I read Gone with the Wind and met Scarlett O'Hara whose determined attitude toward life provided an excellent early role model for strong women.

Today's best selling authors do not have the writing talent that the novelists of the mid-twentieth century had. Or, maybe they do, but with the fast pace of society today we don't have time to relish 800 page tomes like Michener and Wouk created. Characters, plots, themes today are often formulaic, and it's hard to find “literature” among the muck that is sold for $30 a pop.

When I look back to Mr. Smith's assignment “The Truth About My Reading,” I have come to acknowledge that it was a terrible assignment for college freshman. A crashing bore. I couldn't relate. He should have asked for our opinions on the war in Vietnam, or segregation, or the assassination of JFK. We had lots of thoughts on those issues, but the truth about my reading? B-O-R-I-N-G at 18; fascinating to look back on now.

I thank you for indulging me in this week's exercise in reminiscence, and if any of you is so inclined, I would love to have you write to me at trackdak19@hotmail.com and share the truth about YOUR reading. Have a great week!

Beth Moroney, former English teacher and administrator in the Edison Public School District, specialized in teaching Creative Writing and Journalism. Recently Moroney published Significant Anniversaries of Holocaust/Genocide Education and Human/Civil Rights, available through the New Jersey Commission on the Holocaust. A passionate reader, Moroney is known for recommending literature to students, teachers, parents, and the general public for over forty years. Moroney can be contacted at trackdak19@hotmail.com.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

East Brunswick

East Brunswick: The History of... The East Brunswick Grange

April 18, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - During East Brunswick’s agricultural years, one of the most active organizations in town was the East Brunswick Grange. Granges were fraternities for farmers that helped promote the well-being of farming in the community. There were many granges across the country during the late 19th and early 20th Century, and East Brunswick was certainly no exception. In the period ...

Highland Park: Teen Mom Charged in Death of Newborn

HIGHLAND PARK, NJ - In a tragic turn of events, a teenager from Highland Park was charged in a juvenile complaint with murder in the first degree in the death of her newborn son.

Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey announced today that a 14-year-old teenage girl from Highland Park has been charged with an act of juvenile delinquency for an offense which if committed by an ...

Veinott’s Vietnam – Time Flies When You Fly Away

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – It’s been nearly a decade since South Plainfield native Philip Veinott packed his bags and moved over 8,500 miles away to start the next chapter of his life. And, a lot has changed – both personally and professionally – for Veinott in that time. 

In August 2016, Veinott married the love of his life, Helen Nguyen, and the couple is expecting ...

South Brunswick: Mayor Killmurray’s Funeral Plans Announced, Township Prepares For Administration Change

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – Township officials announced funeral plans for Mayor Christopher Killmurray and plans to deal with filling his position and a second one on the Council.

Killmurray, 55, died at home Sunday morning after battling brain cancer for several years.

According to the township, a viewing is scheduled for 3-7 p.m. Wednesday at St. Cecilia’s Roman Catholic Church at ...

South Brunswick: Mayor Christopher Killmurray, 55, Dies

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – Township Mayor Christopher Killmurray died at home Sunday morning, officials announced.

In an alert to residents, Township Manager Bernard Hvozdovic said that Killmurray, 55, passed away at home surrounded by his family after battling brain cancer for several years.

A Democrat, Killmurray was first elected to the Township Council in 2003 and served as deputy ...

Mayor Cohen Celebrates Chelsea's 20th Anniversary

April 18, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ -- Mayor Brad Cohen, an enthusiastic supporter of the Chelsea at East Brunswick, was on hand to help mark the Chelsea's 20th anniversary on Tuesday, April 17, 2018.

Mayor Cohen read a proclamation honoring the Chelsea and recalled the experience of his late mother who, at age 102, had hip replacement surgery and lived to be 106. Mayor Cohen is a great friend of the ...

Upcoming Events

Thu, April 19, 10:00 AM

Middlesex Vocational and Technical School, Piscataway

Middlesex County Veteran Stand Down 2018

Giving Back

Thu, April 19, 8:00 PM

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick

George Thorogood and the Destroyers

Arts & Entertainment

Fri, April 20, 6:30 PM

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick

Wild Kratts

Arts & Entertainment

Reading Like Cats and Dogs: EBPL Launches Second “Reading To Action” Program Series

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) begins its second Reading to Action project, which includes a series of events and volunteer projects this April.

The Reading To Action program encourages library customers to be more active in their community. This year's theme is "animals." The library is presenting a variety of programs for ...

East Brunswick Public Library Screens “Swim Team” Documentary about Autistic Athletes

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—The East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) hosts a screening of the PBS documentary, Swim Team, on Wednesday, April 18 at 6:30 PM. The screening will be followed by a question-and-answer session with director Lara Stolman.

Stolman’s inspiring debut documentary, Swim Team, follows three diverse young men—Michael McQuay ...

The Truth About My Reading

The Truth About My Reading

I didn't get my Composition and Literature teacher at Montclair State College at all. A crusty old man with a dour disposition, Mr. Smith always seemed angry and rude. He appropriately intimidated freshmen, even me, an English major, who found this common core course beneath my dignity. Frankly, as a graduate of Highland Park High School, and a survivor of Mrs.

The German Girl

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa (Washington Square Press, 2016)

For each of the twelve million victims murdered during World War II there is a gutwrenching story to be told. I have read hundreds of memoirs, biographies, plays, and novels that recount the stories of the martyrs; some are exceptional, some are fair. The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa, an award-winning journalist, ...

Op-Ed: New Jersey’s Out-of-Network Bill is a Huge Blow to the Middle Class

April 5, 2018

As Trenton currently looks to balance the budget, once again it’s our state’s hardest working citizens who will be left holding the bag. This time, though, it will be the hardworking office and ancillary staff from our small business private medical practices.  A bill called “The Out-of-Network Consumer Protection Bill” A-2039/S-485 looks poised to make ...