The title of this watercolor image is a bit of a family in-joke. My husband uses his youthful tangle with the epic poem that lent its title here to argue that literature taught in public schools is too obscure and challenging to be of any use. Of course, that experience is about half a century old at this point so probably not so very relevant (and I like to point out that stuff changes: they no longer make you use slide rules, for example).  Today, you can easily find study aids (such as this YouTube summary) to take the sting out of a difficult text. Contrarian that he is, my son made the task of reading this book for a high school book report even more of a chore by translating it into Old English just for fun (yes, unassigned).  After that, he devoured The Dubliners (after hearing my own complaints about that) and then piled on Atlas Shrugged and various other hefty tomes. It helped that he had read an English dictionary from cover to cover some time back in elementary school (again, just for fun). I notice he skipped over Critique of Pure Reason, even though I suggested it would make an awesome book report subject (or, again, perhaps because I suggested it). Kids are funny that way. The same kid, at age 8, woke me up from a nap to ask me which was a better form of government, oligarchy or dictatorship. I was so tired that all I could think of to say was, “Don’t you want to know why the sky is blue or something like a normal kid?” Oddly, the ace in my pocket had he wanted to know about the color of the sky is my literature-hating spouse, a former science teacher. I could have used a classic line in that case and meant it…”Go ask your Dad.”

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