"High school is, one fears, where ultimate identity is conferred. For it is here that, for the last time in life probably, people will pull back and tell you, or at least demonstrate in no unmistakeable terms, what they truly think about you."
"Teacher" is a sought after but rarely found gem to which I can relate on almost every level. I know there is something for every reader in it. For me, it works even more effectively as both a memoir and a portrait of an era than as a tribute to an inspirational teacher.
I graduated from high school in 1970 and lived through and enjoyed the hell out of those times of political upheaval and the Age of Aquarius. I read "Malcolm X" and "Soul on Ice". When some Weathermen (the most radical faction of SDS) came to convert us, they warned us that all music except the Stones "Beggars Banquet" was counterrevolutionary.
I loved The Incredible String Band and recently managed to find some of their songs to download, though my 16 year old daughter cringes when I play them.
I graduated from Grahm Junior College in Boston, where Mark's friend Dubby played hockey (and where Andy Kaufman was our most famous alumna).
And now, over 30 years later, I work in Medford, MA and one of my friends is a Medford High School teacher. To those who say "Medford High School wasn't like that" - nuts to you! EVERY HIGH SCHOOL WAS AND IS LIKE THAT!
Edmundson's descriptions of his love affairs with television and football are enlightening to those of us who are indifferent or hostile to both.
His loving yet totally strained relationship with his father tears at the heart.
His analysis of race relations in the 70s rings very true.
I agree that a followup visit with Mr. Lears would have added to the tribute, and I also wonder why there is nary a mention of Edmundson's mother, but these are minor flaws.
I devoured this book in a few hours and will buy a copy to share with my book club. It is both poignant and hysterically funny.