The time has come again to submit my book orders for next semester, and as I pore through anthologies and photocopies, trying to figure out which stories to teach and in what order, it occurs to me that the whole process is a lot like making a mix tape.
Time is the cassette tape and the stories are the songs.
• striking the right balance of tone and content, old greats and brand-new brilliance, multiple cultures and voices, realism and fabulism and minimalism and lushness
• the staples, the surefire winners, the surprises
• side-by-side order of stories, the timing and mixing thereof (which perfect triad of stories will illuminate a technique in disparate yet compatible ways--in 75 minutes?)
• sequencing the whole thing to move seamlessly from one week to the next for maximum cumulative power.
And like mixtape-making, the endless rearrangement and math of it eventually ties my brain in knots. Elbow-deep in anthologies, books and photocopies spread all over the table, I'm glassy-eyed and fast-forwarding impatiently through each story, hardly able to pay attention beyond the first and last pages.
Truthfully, I couldn't be happier that this is my job.