Scranton: A summer reading list
June 5, 2012
I got caught up in “The Hunger Games” pandemonium that served to promote the movie (which I haven't seen) and spent the past two weeks finishing up “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay.”
The series was a great read and I would recommend it to everyone who isn't too squeamish about death, torture, and mayhem.
Without question the hero is an intriguing character called into action by virtue of a desperate attempt to survive her time as a contestant in the games that are designed to remind all of the "Districts" who is in control.
I suppose because I am an English teacher, my fault is that whatever I read, I take meaning from and find it difficult to see any book as merely entertainment.
Perhaps there are those who can read stories of children 12 to 18 years old being offered up as sacrifices for the purposes of maintaining state control and come away thinking, "Cool story but it's not true, so what's the big deal?"
Very likely it isn't a big deal, but I can't help thinking that the trilogy reflects attitudes and values we as a culture have struggled with from the beginning of human history.
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On the surface, the book is an extended metaphor for the anxiety — in this case horror — of growing up in a world that is unpredictable where rules must be understood, the match must be played, or doom will ensue.
It reminds me of some classics everyone should read: “The Most Dangerous Game,” “Lord of the flies,” “1984,” “The Road,” “That Hideous Strength,” “Harrison Bergeron” or “The Giver.” All of these forms of literature harken back to human nature's constant need for control and the effects of maintaining a societal structure of predictability and security.
Dystopian novels have always found a place on my reading list and I enjoy them, not because I'm a fatalist, but because I think of myself as a realist.
The realist enjoys understanding the problem and then setting out to find ways to construct a solution or set up an attack or defense strategy.
It's why I love to coach.
In all of the sublime beauty of the competition and the nature of playing the game, it comes down to the reality.
It's what is on the scoreboard at the end of the fourth quarter, the time that is posted at the end of the race or the distance measured at the end of an event.
The most important aspect of the result is what we do with it and how we move forward.
Some give up and choose to respond by allowing the negative aspects of the culture to subsume them. But most choose to continue on and learn from the experience.
So, while I shudder to conceive the world that Katniss Everdeen lives in and must try and navigate, she overcomes (not easily) and learns to live.
Seems like a good lesson to me.
Now sit back and take some time to do some summer reading.
Lance Scranton is a Moffat County High School teacher and coach. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.