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I Wrote the Cunt Novel, Children

Most of the kids I work with a pretty cool. Funny, weird. They make the job entertaining. A lot of them are living in different worlds to me--take K, for example, who is ten, and on her second passport. She's lived in three different countries and had maids that her parents paid five dollars an hour (this was in Africa, and she said, "That's the pay they want," which is the nine year old logic for you). She told me I was the coolest teacher she had ever met the other day, which considering she's been to more countries than birthdays, is nice. It'll pass, of course. She'll turn ten, eleven, whatever, and I'll just become odd, uncool, and fucking ancient. Which is the way it should be. But for the time being, most of them are cool, and I'll just not mention the sullen teenagers with shit music tastes and heads full of silence. They're the minority.

At any rate, I don't talk about being an author at work. There's a little bit of cool to being an author--because of those glamourous films they make, you understand--but to mention it in that environment has always struck me as running just a little close to pimping your work to the kids, which is, lets face it, terribly fucking uncool. This is a general rule I have for any level: University, High School, Primary, whatever, I just don't do it. I've taught in a whole lot of places now, and in a whole lot of ways, and I've seen it done a number of times: lecturers who fill the reader with their own work, teachers who get the class read their work, guest speakers who bring in their own work, and so on and so forth. I've never seen it done, but one student, a girl in year ten, told me how an author had shown up with t-shirts of his books, or some such thing. The mention was for mockery. Now, some people, they're going to see that this is fine, but to me, it's all hideously tacky, and riding a line where you're just taking advantage of people who have to be in your presence for another reason entirely.

And seriously, if you're teaching literature, how egotistical is it to force your own work on your students?

I've done the last, mind you. A while back I was told I should do it because, well, everyone else does, and why shouldn't I, since I'm a brilliant and talented sort and deserve to be read more wildly (no, seriously, this was the logic--look, don't argue with it, I already did). It left me with such a nasty, unpleasant feeling, as if I'd suddenly become a spam ninja, or one of those telemarketers that call you at night to sell you mail order brides, or those people who know on your door to sell you a version of God. About the only time this whole rule of mine is passed off is when I talk about the 'career' I've had, at which stage, I have a nice set of props, where I show them a stapled, photocopied version of the Mentor, the first place I was ever published, and a beautiful, real looking book, such as Leviathan Four or Forever Shores or one of the Year's Best books. I hold the first one up and say, "Twelve years ago," and then I pick up the second and say, "Somewhere about now. Ever heard of this book? Publisher? Me? No? Well, let me just say, all this too can be all yours after twelve years of hard work."

Not to get a little rantish there, but pimping students is just never the good idea you think it is. In addition to that, it's a quick way to lose that all important voice of knowledge for teaching. If a piece of yours is technically unsound, a student will pick it up, and then ask him or herself why they should be listening to you?

They're going to learn about you, anyway. They're all going to learn that you're an author (also,if you're single, married, have children, and how much is in your savings account). Either they'll google you, or other teachers, or other students, will tell them. There's no need to actually pimp your shit to them so they 'know about it', which is but one line of logic I've heard. Simply put: they're going to learn. They're going to track it down. They're going to find your blog and then tell you about it later (Hi, M). Which, to return to my class of ten and eleven year olds, is what happened on the weekend. The first words out of their mouth, of course, were, "What's it about? Can you show it to us?!" which is totally sweet and lovely, but if you're me, and the author of 26Lies, the book that results in conversations like this--

Mum?

Yes, dear?


Ben's book has the word cunt in it six billion fucking times.

--then you need to find a way to downplay it. Really down, downplay.

Now, me, I'm fine with kids learning the word cunt, and about ass fucking, why its stupid to hate gay people, and all the other fine, educational qualities that my book contains, even if they are ten. In fact, the earlier you start, the better, I reckon. However, it has been pointed out that, since I'm not a parent, I have no fucking idea about what all this 'bad information' will do, and since I don't want to see my kids get beaten...

Well, authors are uncool anyway. Kids should learn that early on.

Comments

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benpeek
May. 7th, 2007 03:13 am (UTC)
yeah, i figured the new look blog needed icons. i wasn't a fan on the old one, but this one... s'all good. thanks for the liking.

censorship is just ridiculous. strip it away and i reckon we'd have a healthier world. not that i suppose my theory will be put to the test.
sonanova
May. 7th, 2007 04:54 am (UTC)
Mama, don't let your kids grow up to be writers?

I think the family psych told my mom that when I was about thirteen, then I made a few bucks doing it, so I went from being crazy to merely eccentric.
benpeek
May. 7th, 2007 05:12 am (UTC)
Mama, don't let your kids grow up to be writers?

not if you want them to be financially secure ;) however, i must say, i am totally digging life as a mostly self employed writer/tutor. being your own boss is fantastic.

getting paid makes all okay in everyones books. well, nearly everyone...
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benpeek
May. 7th, 2007 11:46 am (UTC)
haha. like i'm going to admit to the financial poverty i live in here.
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benpeek
May. 7th, 2007 12:05 pm (UTC)
half a dozen or so, i reckon. a lot of students find this place (and me) while we're in the class environment, but only a handful i've kept in contact with. over the years a couple of 'em have become good friends.
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benpeek
May. 7th, 2007 12:13 pm (UTC)
nah.
ex_chrisbil
May. 7th, 2007 10:21 am (UTC)
I think all kids should be forced to read Modern Toss in school!

You a fan of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Ben? I'm wondering about picking up the second album at the moment. The first grew on me.
benpeek
May. 7th, 2007 11:48 am (UTC)
you know, i really liked the first one. a whole heap. the second is a poorer thing--some songs i like, some i dont, but i think i'm coming down firmly on the meh said. rather like the second bloc party album, i am afraid to say.

however, i think the second artic monkeys album is complete rubbish. i thought that first one was kinda quirky, too.
ex_chrisbil
May. 7th, 2007 11:50 am (UTC)
I couldn't agree more on the Arctic Monkeys. Loved the first one (for a while, until it became so fuckin' overplayed I wanted to stick needles in my ears) and didn't like the second a bit. It all sounded exactly the same, but completely forced! Shit stuff.
benpeek
May. 7th, 2007 12:07 pm (UTC)
i can still listen to that first one, but then i also avoided all the overplaying, i imagine. but the second... fuck, man. they got serious redemention to perform for the next album.
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benpeek
May. 10th, 2007 02:12 pm (UTC)
blaaaah.

i missed this comment entirely. i'd go into hysterics if i had menstruation.
bodhichitta0
May. 15th, 2007 05:02 pm (UTC)
You know, I don't have a problem with my kids hearing bad words or innuendoes about normal-ish sex between consenting adults. It is really violence I am concerned about and also their level of understanding. Children are often very literal and don't understand the multiple meanings that adults grasp fairly quickly... well some adults. My kids get the several meanings if I explain it but it is not something that occurs to them. I think it is a level of maturity.

For example, when I did the talk about Jasper Johns for fifth grade art and I showed them the flag he painted, I had to explain the irony, that he had served in the Korean War, etc. After I explained it, they totally got it. But I have a feeling with literature it is much the same way, know what I mean?
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