Boy who preferred Shakespeare

ENCOURAGING schoolboys to enjoy their literary heritage has always been a vexing task. First, they used to prefer playing football. Then they started watching football. And now, they prefer reading football.

According to a straw poll of GCSE pupils at William Ellis, a north London boys' comprehensive, Thomas Hardy and George Eliot have no chance next to the England footballers Tony Adams and Ian Wright, both recent co-authors of their autobiographies.

Needless to say, Wrighty does not feature on GCSE reading lists, and many parents will prefer their children to be reading Turgenev and Dickens to Hoddle and Adams.

But there is no cause for despair, yet. Though the reading list was dismissed as archaic by several respondents, figures from Shakespeare through to J D Salinger and Harper Lee still figured as preferred reading by the 15 and 16-year-olds.

However, Steven Veal said of short stories and poems by Hardy, John Wyndham and Seamus Heaney, all of which feature on the reading list: "They are complicated, they are hard to understand and you can't see any connection to real life." But he is no philistine: asked what text he would choose given the freedom of a bookshop, he picked Julius Caesar: "Shakespeare is about jealousy and love and hate and violence, and people do exactly the same kind of thing today."

The "irrelevance" of some of the GCSE texts does not reflect a generation gap, then; it is more a considered opinion. "Studying some of these books would put some people off the idea of books full stop," said Steven. "I'm sure there are people who think, `Well, these are all boring so books are boring'."

The others agreed: the age of the GCSE texts was not a problem in itself, and they knew they were studying the literature as part of a learning process, not for enjoyment. "But I thought some of the short stories were meaningless," said Keir Kennedy " - not like Shakespeare, where everything's very realistic even if the language is difficult."

The school lists have not changed much over the decades: in 1976, Shakespeare, Chaucer and Hardy featured, much as they do now. Susan Hill and Stan Barstow are among the modern texts in today's exams.

But perhaps they aren't modern enough. Salim Amevor is a voracious reader of biographies of black political figures. Gustav Wood reads for more than an hour a night, but mainly chooses science fiction. And Keir, also 15 and an Arsenal fan, is reading Tony Adams's book, as are several of his classmates.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project