The Kid Who Was Supposed to Read My Book

Yesterday, someone on twitter wrote:

Grade 11 student asking for a summary of @sean_dixon novel that I reviewed on Goodreads. Ah, no.

She included a link with her very nice review, one of my all time favourites:

How I loved this book. I happened to be in Montreal while I read this book which gave me a better understanding of the book's setting. I loved the idea of a pair of narrators who miss out on all the main action. I loved the references to all the other books and authors in the story (many of which I had read). I finished it on the train heading back home and cried and cried and cried. I wonder what the original play was like.

-and his reply:

hey Jennifer I was wondering if you could please please give me the full summery of this novel, The Girls Who Saw Everything? because I am an grade 11 student, and i have to do my main project for english on this novel, and its due in couple of days, and i dont have enough time to read this novel, in the time limit I have, so can you please please please be so nice to give me the full summery of this novel. can you please please email me on : [redacted] or can you please replay on here at this website? thanks in advenced.

So I decided to write to him:


Your teacher will never believe you wrote this. You should tell him/her that you fell behind and wrote to the author and he sent you this. The only reason why I'm doing this is because it mirrors an action that happens near the end of the book. 

But you should also read the book. It's pretty good. 




The Girls who saw Everything follows the adventures of various members of a Montreal young woman's book club - The Lacuna Cabal - as they conduct a six week reading of The Epic of Gilgamesh, showing how the events in this old story collide with the unfolding personal melodramas of their young lives.

The time is March 2003, during the lead-up to the Iraq War, an event that most of them are blissfully unaware of, except for one member - the cross-dressing outsider Aline Irwin - who has been following the blogs of Salam Pax out of Baghdad.

At the novel's heart however is the Quixotic girl who first proposed the book, Runner Coghill, and the mystery of her personal connection with the ancient tale. She has in her possession ten priceless cuneiform stones that look like they've come straight from an archeologica l dig in the Middle East.

We follow Runner's courageous attempt to use the tale of the Epic of Gilgamesh to set a kind of artistic order onto the chaos of a debilitating family tragedy and her own serious illness.

And from Runner to her ten-year old brother, Neil, who seeks after his sister's death to enact the events of the Epic on his own. Pursued across the world by the surviving members of the Lacuna Cabal, he embarks on a journey across the Atlantic, through the Mediterranean and down the Red Sea, ending up sitting at a computer terminal in the office in a shipyard in Bahrain, conducting an exchange about life and death with the Baghdad Blogger Salam Pax.

The novel's engine is comic, and somewhat quixotic, and in fact the turning point is a haircut, but it's nestled within a unifying theme of 'reading lives.'

And he wrote back:

Hey thank you thank thank you so much!! this really helped, I was wondering if you could maybe help me out with one more thing? please!!! the actual project is to come up with an theme that you found in the novel, then create an Painting or an Comic Script that has : - 10 techniques ( and actual examples) to include. like if i do the comic script then i can have 2 or 3 techniques on the ittle page ( and techniques doesnt have to be similie, personification.... it can be anything like the color choosen for the painting or the title page..) please please please please help me out wiht this! this was the actual project, but i needed to know abt the book first. I kinda knew about the summery of the book before i messaged you, but I was just making sure that I got the plot right. But I really really need help with this, because i only have 1 more day left to finish this, and this is worth 25% of my mark and, if I dont do well on this project then, I FAIL this course. so can you please please please please help me!!!! ( and btw I am going to buy an coppy of this novel and read it in this summer).

I did not understand his new set of instructions and did not write him back.

Later ps: Jacob McArthur Mooney tells me I should still help this kid, writing, "I don't even understand the project he's being asked to do, exactly. But I feel you should make him a diorama and mail it to him."

He was joking, of course. 

I won't send the kid a diorama but perhaps he could compose variations on these bookplates (actually drawn by Evan Munday.) That might do the trick, if he can find them here, as long as he doesn't just copy them like some kind of zombie internet automaton. 

Later pps: Assuming he copies the below and hands them in, he should probably look up the terms 'bookplate' and 'ex libris', familiarize himself with the Latin expression on the bookplates (hint: the 'v' is really a 'u') and also hope his teacher doesn't already have a set. 

Okay, so there's more:
hey i m sorry if u didn't understand the project, i managed to photo copy the project instructions. I uploaded the file so u can see, and I am sorry I couldn't upload the comment there because i couldn't upload a file! 
please did is part of the message after u read the uploaded file:  

 I just want to let you know that I already did one portfolio on the novel Frankenstein. And I cant do the music because I did music for that novel!! and also since you are a author I was wondering if u could help me do the poem. And also don't worry I won't copy word for word from the project you help me with! please please please please please help me I really really neeed it right now!! I have lots of other things for my other classes as well, and if I dont do well on this project then my mark will go down by a lot, and my favorite uncle just died today as well, so I can't focus on anythings at all! :( so please help me!! 

Yeah. That's what I said. He's treating me like his life teacher, telling me that the dog hate the homework. He also attached the assignment and a stab at the theme of the book:

KID! The theme of the novel is not 'Sometimes death is the only option'. That is not the theme. It's about as far from the theme as you could possibly get. 

 As for the rest of it, it's all here. It amazes me that you think I would give you anything else. All you have to do is use your powers—the same powers you use to seek help from half of the internet including the author of the fucking book! All you have to do is use those powers to interpret the exercise you've been given in a way that makes you able to do it!


Later still. Now the grand poobahs of Metafilter have chimed in, after somebody posted it there and sent me the link. From this I learn that by interacting with a Grade 11 student, I have exposed myself as unprofessional, an idiot and a 'piece of shit'.

But thank you, Grobstein, for defending my honour. And Bwithh is right: my synopsis doesn't make any sense. I think it was one I took a stab at that was rejected by the publisher.

And finally, to the kid: You should have a look at zylocomotion's post to the metafilter thread at 6:51 p.m. He's really on to something. Because in my opinion, this isn't a post about the perils of school. It's about the perils of skimming.


Final postscript: The Globe and Mail picks up the story, ending it with a nice compliment for the kid. For the record, I agree.


hiren said...

hey I have sent you an message! help me! since i couldnt upload an file on here thats why I had to email you. Please check your email. thanks

Sean Dixon - said...

Kid, I've given you EVERYTHING YOU NEED in the above post. All you have to do is use your head.

You're making me crazy.

Unknown said...

There is no project. You're being trolled. The repeated use of "an" when it isn't appropriate is a dead giveaway.

Anonymous said...

That "kid" is probably some bilious, aggrieved dude who resorts to ironic laziness to deal with the fact that the vast flood of his rage and spite can't really express itself through the narrow cloaca of his writing talent. A troll, I mean. Just for your information.

newfers said...

I need help baking a cake, but I've never baked a cake before, and in fact, I don't even know what goes into making a cake, and I don't own any bowls, so if you'd please please please please please bake me a cake and send it to be overnight, I'd appreciate it so much since I just got a rip in my favorite pair of socks and my TiVo didn't tape Game of Thrones and life sucks right now and can you please please please please bake me a cake k thanks!

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about the opinions of the metafilter cabal. they take every post as an opportunity to display how high and mighty they are.

Anonymous said...

This post is too long. Can you do another blogpost summarizing this blogpost? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I'm interested in book - based on the above summary -- I intend to get it for my wife to read. So there.

Anonymous said...

To the 11th grader:

Pick options one and six. Both of them only rely on you knowing the plot, which you say you know. Option one is a story board which is basically a group of pictures that show some of the main characters doing stuff in the book and captions explaining what you are doing. According to your sheet, you only need 8 pictures so this should not be a problem for you since you have a summary

Option six is practically the same thing but you have to write slightly longer captions and make a title page.

Also, since you now know that you are not so great at faking projects at the last minute, give yourself enough time in the future to get your work done.

Plagiarism is not an option and it can carry serious consequences.

beanz said...

It's projects like these that make me wonder how I made it through high school English with my love for writing intact. This has to be the tightest, most straightjacketed definition of "creativity" I've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha you are obviously being abused.
If I had to guess someone decided to outsource
their schoolwork and you are being contacted by the firm.

Things like the obvious dudespeak, pleasepleaseplease,
"my favorite uncle just died", are dead giveaways.

Clearly the summary was one of "the actual things" and
now you are being trolled to do other assignments as well.

Doctor BPD said...

I think this is delightful, and that it was perfectly fair to tease the little twit. At the same time, I'm disgusted by the nastiness of some of the metafilter comments. But that's the web. I've already ordered your book!

David Gillman said...

Don't be worried about them calling you an unprofessional idiot and a piece of shit. That's just the hip new way of saying somebody has a sense of relatedness and lot of energy that they spend mining other people for what good they might have inside them. See

Keep it up!


Anonymous said...

Tom_F1 - Banjo Banjar! I see you (and the Globe and Mail) have become prey to an internet troll!

The first clue is the inappropriate use of the article 'an' in the first couple of emails and then the inappropriate use of the article 'a' in the last email.

Posters on this blog and at the Globe and Mail have pointed this out to you but you seem quick to dismiss them. I don't blame you. Why let facts ruin a good story?

Sean Dixon - said...

Occam's Razor says the kid is real.

Anonymous said...

I teach high school. That project is fairly consistent with real projects given at that level. The instructions are based on the work that was supposed to start at the beginning of the semester and continue throughout, so the plea of it being last minute isn't accurate. The uncle dying thing is a fairly common cop-out (you'd be amazed how deadly the end of term is for relatives!) As a teacher, I'd say you were very kind and patient with this young person, and that if you've been taken advantage of, it's no poor reflection on you. I disagree thoroughly with the Globe and Mail's praise of the student, though. Laziness and begging and lying to avoid work aren't likely (I hope) to get you far.

hiren said...

OK its my turn now bitches!!!!! GO fuck yourself all the haters!! If you dont wanna fucken halp someone out, then shut the fuck up, and eat your lolipop!!!! i finished this project from my own ideas, and I fucken got an 85% in it bitch!!!! and screw of all the hater!!! you have no life, other then to go on bloggers and comment supid things, that no on really gives a fuck about!!! and I have no idea why sean dixon decided to make this blogg!! i sent him an private email, and he fucken made an blogg, thats call UNPROFESSIONAL!!! if he just wanted to help me little bit or give me advice, then he could have just emailed me back! If his intensions were not to help me fully, then he could have just messaged me back , saying no i m not gonna help you!!! he didnt fucken had to make this blog tell the world about my project!!! ( i thouhgt sean dixon was a nice person!!! but it turns out that he is a shamed of helping someone out when needed!!!!) well he made his choice of making this stupid blog for no fucken reason!!! not my call!!!! p.s. I m reall people so who ever thought i wasnt real can go fuck them self!!!!! I m real, and Peace out bitches i am out!!

ps. thanks to all of those people who gave me good advice, and didnt say bad shit abt me!!! :)