The American English Teacher Rereads a Clean Copy of Beloved

I’ve posted a slightly different version of this piece before, two years ago and some change. It seems appropriate to post this revision now in honor of Toni Morrison, whose fiction has over the course of my adult life completely changed my heart and my brain in immeasurably powerful and positive ways.

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The American English Teacher Rereads a Clean Copy of Beloved

My classroom copy is copiously marked in three or four colors of highlighter and underlined and bracketed and annotated with pen and pencil seven different ways to Sunday. I’ve read and reread and reread this novel perhaps eight or nine times now, but this time I choose a clean, elegant copy over my raggedy-ass classroom copy and it’s like reading it for the first time again. I’m a sucker for fine editions and could not resist this one. I can smell the ink. I can feel the lettering engraved into the spine like braille, or like the text carved into a tombstone, Beloved. And my reading this time is not cluttered by my previous readings, marked up by some earlier version of me who thought he had answers. I complain sometimes about the time I lack to read new work because I am always rereading to teach. And yet, with this gem, I might be happy if it were the only book I could ever read until I died. Every time I read it I find new things to love and new reasons to mourn or hope, and I understand more deeply how tragic our history, how tenacious our ghosts, how all the repair work in our country that needs doing (now more than ever before) springs from this, from this.

3 Comments

Filed under Literature, Teaching, Writing and Reading

3 responses to “The American English Teacher Rereads a Clean Copy of Beloved

  1. druekberg

    Great post, Michael. Now you’ve added another book to my growing pile of books to read or re-read. My pile has gotten bigger, not smaller, since retiring. When I was still a full-time teacher, it was easier to say, “I don’t have time to read that.” Now, in addition to all the books on my shelves and desks that I have wanted to read forever, I want to add more, and more subscriptions. What am I currently reading, you ask? Loving Kevin McIlvoy’s _At the Gate of All Wonder_ and this and that from New England Review, Rhino, and Cinncinnati Review, and sort of liking _Patagonian Road_, and needing to finish Cynthia Phoel’s _Cold Snap_, oh, and let me stop here….

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