Friday, January 14, 2011

The Stone Diaries

The Stone Diaries
By Carol Shields

We were supposed to read this book in grade 11 English, but I recall that my English teacher that year, Ms. White, had disliked the book so much that we opted for Lives of the Saints by Nino Ricci, a book I thoroughly did not enjoy. I have no idea why I would recall such a trivial bit of educational history (and still produce grades in the low 30s in math) but there you have it.

Since then I have, for one reason or another, managed to avoid this book. Apparently Ms. White's opinion of the book carried a lot of weight with me because at certain points in my reading career I have actually gone out of my way to NOT read this book. The fact that it won the Governor General's Award, the Pulitzer Prize and was short-listed for the Booker Prize meant (and still means) nothing to me. But obviously someone, somewhere thought this book was pretty swell. Just not Ms. White and, by extention, me.

This got me to thinking about Ms. White. Why would one woman's opinion about a book keep me from reading it for 20 years? I recall that she was (at the time) in her mid to late twenties and a lot of other male students in my high school thought she was the bee's knees. She was partial to calf length floral print skirts and librarian sweaters, which was pretty risque attire for a teachr in those days. But my teacher crush was Ms. Thompson (blue jeans and sweaters!). There was no mistaking that.

My only vivid memory of Ms White was her running down a corridor because she was late for her class. At the same time, a student exiting a classroom in said corridor opened the door outwards and she ran face-first into the door. Then she fell down.The only thing I remember about her class was sitting in front of the school narc. But for some reason her opinion about the Stone....

Wait.... This entire anecdote was about The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence. That was the book Ms. White hated so much.....

Anyway, The Stone Diaries reminded me of my grandmother.


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