Contrary to popular belief, the worst thing ever is not spiders, or even death. The worst thing ever is required class participation. It’s terrifying. Look, some of us can’t just make mouth-words on the fly, okay? Some of us need at least three days’ notice before we can contribute to a classroom discussion, and we also need everyone else to leave the room for a second so we can tentatively toss our opinions out into the empty vacuum of space.
If any of this sounds like you, then you’re one of my people. Don’t worry. I’ll get you those participation points. Pick a question, raise your hand, and prepare to be exalted as a god:
1. Did Nathanial Hawthorne ruin every party he went to, or did people just stop inviting him after a while?
2. Does Stephen King know there are places that exist other than Maine?
3. Did Edgar Allan Poe ever actually meet a real, live woman who wasn’t a) dead or b) the haunting embodiment of his suffering?
4. Why did Beowulf think he could fight a whole dragon by himself?
5. What was up with Shakespeare and prophetic murder dreams? Because of him I keep thinking prophetic murder dreams are going to be more of a problem than they actually are.
6. Did Victor Hugo really base Marius off of himself?
7. Follow-up question: did Victor Hugo ever make out with a handkerchief?
8. What did Marilyn Monroe ever see in Arthur Miller?
9. Why was Oscar Wilde obsessed with cufflinks?
10. Why did anyone even put up with Reverend Dimmesdale?
11. Did Miss Havisham set herself on fire or did the fire briefly gain sentience and just decide to attack her?
12. Was F. Scott Fitzgerald just jealous because Zelda could write too?
13. Did he think writing was HIS THING?
14. What kind of insect was Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis? I want taxonomic order, family, and genus. I want to break this thing down.
15. What’s so damn special about the name Ernest?
16. Did Jane Austen get paid double for every time she used the word “countenance”?
17. Who was the Pearl Poet and did he literally always speak in alliterative verse because he was just kind of that guy?
18. Was J.D. Salinger the brooding type?
19. Did Ernest Hemingway keep a framed picture of himself?
20. You know, just to have?
21. So was it the lady or the tiger? Tell me or I’ll start screaming.
22. Was Geoffrey Chaucer as much of a jerk as I think he was?
23. Would I have enjoyed Catcher in the Rye more if Holden had been a space pirate?
24. Did Truman Capote have a thing about silk?
25. Was everything silk?
26. Did he know there are things in this life that are actually not silk?
27. James Joyce seems like the kind of guy who’d lick his finger before turning a page. So, I guess my question here is… was he?
28. Goethe seems like the kind of guy who’d text you after a first date and ask, “What are we?” This isn’t a question, just a statement of fact.
29. Did Shakespeare make the original “your mom” joke?
30. Does William S. Burroughs know how much I hate him?
31. Can he feel it?
32. Emily Dickinson was a spinster who never left her bedroom, so I gotta ask—is she me?
33. How did Mary Shelley even come up with Frankenstein?
34. Seriously, how does a person come up with something like that?
35. Would George Orwell hate what we’ve become?
36. What exactly was the point of The Old Man and the Sea?
37. What if the sharks could talk?
38. How cool would that have been?
39. Why did Emily Bronte do that to me with Wuthering Heights?
40. Okay, but how did Ray Bradbury really feel about modern technology?
WHAT WE WOULD HAVE GIVEN TO HAVE THIS LIST WHEN WE WERE IN HIGH SCHOOL. Do you dread participating in class? Do you fear it more than you fear your own mortality?