It struck Braden that there was something old fashioned about Professor Price. He seemed to dress and behave in a manner more in keeping with men in the 1950s or 60s. Braden recognized the look, because it was the way his grandfather and his friends had all dressed well into their later years. A tailored black suit, emerald-green tie, thin moustache, hair combed straight back. Braden had pegged Price as being close to 60, but once he began to speak, his exact age was harder to pin down. While his movements were youthful and easy, they seemed out of step with the thick veins of gray running through his slicked back hair. And his eyes were those of a significantly older man; creases etched the corners and crinkled around the lids. When he smiled, parenthetical lines appeared fleetingly on each cheek. Braden instinctively liked him.
“Since all of you are enrolled in The Writing Center, I think it’s safe to say that the bulk of you want to be writers, or perhaps some of you have progressed a bit further in your thoughts on publishing, and want to be editors. Whatever your reasoning, whether you like it or not, The Novel is one of the first courses taken by every student at the Grimwood Center.”
Price gathered the extra copies of the syllabus as they found their way to the front of the room. He set all but one on top of his briefcase, then leaned against his desk and looked over the sheet of paper.
“So, why the novel? Why not short stories? Simple, because you’ve all had claptrap like The Lottery beaten into your heads throughout high school English, and while Shirley Jackson’s deal with the publishing devil has kept her heirs in the money for decades thanks to the apathetic world of textbook publishing, after four years of reading that kind of short-form, doomsday drivel, I’m amazed any of you got through the public school system with any interest whatsoever in the printed word. I like to think Grimwood is a bit more developed in our approach to storytelling, frankly, I know we are, so while I’ll cover the deserving classics, like Jane Eyre, and Great Expectations, I won’t be making nods to favorites of “level one” high school English teachers everywhere. That means, for example, no Pudd’nhead Wilson. Mark Twain or not, the only thing good about that one is the pudd’n, and frankly, you can get that at Brownies, so enjoy the pudd’n and skip the book. You have the list, so you can see what we’ll be reading. Bronte, Dickens, some Vonnegut, the greats like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, some Stephen King, and of course, John Irving. Books that live, and breathe, and serve a purpose. Other than Jane Eyre and Dickens, have any of you ever read these in a course environment before?”
No hands went up in the quiet classroom.
“Excellent. Then I’m doing something right. So, what is the purpose of novels? I think there are a few of them, actually. For the writer, they let you process what has happened in your life, right wrongs, live through tragedy, change history, maybe try in your own way to help others avoid making the same mistakes you’ve made. Novels follow the plots writers think life should adhere to. Or maybe they’re just a way of living out fantasies and getting revenge. Those are great reasons, too. For readers, it’s some of the same objectives, an escape from life, a way to come to terms with the things you’ve lived through. There’s something soothing in knowing that someone, somewhere, a character and therefore a writer, has experienced, felt, thought, seen, tasted, and lusted after all of the same things you have. Books are communion between one person, a writer, and another, the reader. They instill ideas and bring people together. What in life is better than a couple curling up and reading a book aloud to one another on a snowy winter night? What is more intimate than sitting in a leather chair, blanketed in the glow of a reading lamp, processing the dreams and ideas of someone miles, continents, or even decades and worlds removed from the time in which those words were set to paper? Novels are life pressed into ink and slipped through time within cardboard and cloth covers. The power to preserve and deliver a message on paper is invaluable”
Excerpt from Grimwood – a work in progress.