I Like __ A Lot
I Like My Students a Lot
I asked my Introduction to Fiction students to ‘creatively reinterpret’ a story from the Anchor Book of New American Short Stories (or another story/book at my discretion). They were to turn in a creative project and an essay reflecting upon and explaining their project. The goal of the assignment was to get the student to try to consider reading stories and telling stories from a new perspective, to let him or her be creative and examine that creativity, and to step away from the standard ‘lit-crit’ essay. Many of these projects were, I think anyhow, a nice break from the grind, and I’m really happy with how they turned out. It’s these sorts of things I’ll miss about teaching.
After the break, you can have a quick look at four projects (posted with permission of the students). These are just a few of the great projects I saw. Other students wrote diary entries for the characters, made scrapbooks and photo albums to narrate the story, rewrote the endings (“Do Not Disturb” by AM Homes received this treatment quite a bit), illustrated various scenes. One student planned a three course meal based on “Sea Oak” by George Saunders; she brought pumpkin pie squares in for the class. Another student set up and video recorded four interviews with actors, two of which were based on characters from “Do Not Disturb” by AM Homes and “The Girl In The Flammable Skirt” by Aimee Bender. The other two interviews dealt with real events in the actors’ lives. The idea was to examine the similarities between fiction and reality. Finally, another student wrote and recorded a punk song based on Sam Lipsyte’s “I’m Slavering.” The song was supposed to be a demo tape from Gary’s days of trying to be a rock star despite his having a dead thumb.
More below the thing. Enjoy.
We were somewhere around Bartow just as the drugs began to take hold when I noticed the first one. He was standing on the side of the road staring off into the sun-baked desert. Thinking he was a hitchhiker, I remember saying something along the lines of “what the fuck is that poor bastard doing out here in the middle of nowhere” when I realized his legs were both bent at extreme angles and he appeared to be missing his lower jaw. The Great Red Shark swerved as we screeched past him…
This first project is called Fear and Zombies in Las Vegas. The student wrote in her reflective essay, “I decided to combine two things I love: Hunter S. Thompson and zombies.” She turned in a hilarious rewrite of the first chapter of the book. She did a great job mimicking Thompson’s comic tone and manipulating the events in the chapter; really, I was surprised at how well zombies fit into the whole narrative.
Here’s a quick comparison. The original:
My attorney had taken his shirt off and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process.
And the zombie version:
My attorney was standing on his seat pouring the remainder of his beer over his head and firing the .357 randomly at what appeared to be several more living corpses staggering down the highway toward us.
I couldn’t stop laughing when I read that line.
This next project is a reinterpretation of Anthony Doerr’s “The Caretaker.” The student created a board game based on the story. I don’t have her essay with me to quote exactly, but she explained that as she read the story, she was reminded of a board game: each event that Joseph experiences seems to happen due to an unlucky cast of the dice. Anyhow, the goal of the game is to accrue the most ‘happy’ points before the ‘Get Sent Home’ card is drawn from the Fate pile. Those who are familiar with the story will understand, then, that this is a very tough game to win.
This student loved Brian Evenson’s “Two Brothers” so much that he reimagined it as a movie. He designed a DVD case for it and explained his production decisions. He wanted to make it into a big blockbuster movie, and his decisions reflect that; for example, he wanted Michael Bay to direct it. He also decided to cast Megan Fox because she’s hot. I have to admit here that I would pay to see this movie, though I would be very grossed out the entire time. Here’s the DVD case:
Finally, I’ve got a video made by another student. He was one of the very few who enjoyed the selection of Wenderoth’s “Letters to Wendy’s”; their humor, he said, is what he really liked about them, so he spent three days at Wendy’s to make this video. I hope you like it.