I don't even know if that's punctuated correctly. Oh well.
Jon Hassler, amazing author, died not today, not yesterday, but last Thursday. In my excitement over starting spring break and the stress of current Operation: DBH angst, I missed it completely.
I have a love/hate relationship with Hassler. Had, I guess. When I read Staggerford back in 2002ish at the tender age of 24, I threw the book across the room I was so angry with it. I had been told that every English teacher needed to read that book, so I did, and man was I ever pissed off. I didn't understand why anyone would want to read such a terrible book. Terrible in the sense of what happens to the main character over the course of the seven days of the book, not terrible as so much fiction I complain about (where I'm so shocked it got published I can hardly breathe).
But, I took some time, and then I read it again. I realized that what I called terrible was actually unbelievably brilliant because Hassler hit a part of my emotions that a book had never touched before. Yeah, it was a total sucker-punch, but a good book will do that to you. Staggerford sits quietly as one of my favorite and best loved books, yet I can't imagine ever reading it again because it's just too painful a book for me to get through.
Why every English teacher should read it, though, is because it paints a picture of teaching that is more real and more honest than any education class ever could. It's an English teacher's diary, really, with all of the bumps and bruises and joys and successes and rewards and red herrings and exhaustion that I never thought could be explained by anyone...until Hassler came along and put it out there in such a simple and beautiful way that it didn't sound like a teacher bitch-fest, it was just fact. And it is. And for that I thank Hassler and love him. The hate comes in not really even because of him, but because what he writes is exactly right. He just had the unfortunate job of being the messenger.
Maybe I will read it again. I think, like The Great Gatsby, people should read Staggerford every five years or so. I'm just slightly overdue.