BOSTON, Mass. This city is sometimes referred to as the “Athens of America” because of its many colleges and universities, but that doesn’t mean young boys here like summer reading lists any more than their peers in the rest of the country. “I suffered through nine months of fourth grade and now this,” says Timmy Kampner, the son of professors at Boston University as he holds a sheet of paper out for a reporter to examine. “I read chapter books all year—I need a break!”
“. . . and then the poet blows his Fulbright on cocaine and a BMW!”
But some boys like to read, and the example they set is the envy of highly-competitive parents who want their children to acquire language skills at an early age in order to move on to more important academic functions, such as criticizing the work of other candidates for tenure. “I wish my son were more like Ronnie Moskil,” says Jane Kampner as she watches her son pick his nose during Saturday “Story Hour.” “That boy’s already finished the required reading for his sophomore year—in college.”
“Oh no–she got a Pushcart Prize!”
And indeed the young bibliophile is way ahead of other boys his age, a fact his parents attribute to their efforts to make reading fun. “We created a board game called ‘Jr. Writers Fun Land!’” says Jane Moskil, a professor of English at Simmons College. “It’s a good indoor activity for rainy days, which real writers use to write depressing poetry.”
Today Ronnie has Timmy Kampner and two other friends, Evan Slater and Frasier Moniz, over to play and the boys throw the dice to choose their roles. “Yay–I get to be publisher!” says Evan, who rolled a six. “I want to be editor!” says Frasier, who rolled a five. “I want to be critic,” says Ronnie, who rolled a three. “I guess I’m the writer,” says Timmy with a look of disgust, who threw a two.
“I’ll trade you a fellowship in Provence for tenure at an all-women’s liberal arts college.”
Play begins and Evan moves his piece six squares where he lands on the “Good Break” square and draws a card from the stack in the center of the board. “Your college roommate is hired by The New Yorker. Talk of the Town piece accepted—collect $700!”
“Yay!” Evan says as he pays himself from the bank of play money. Next up is Frasier, who moves five spaces and lands on the “Writer’s Group” square and picks a card from that pile. “Your girlfriend Chloe dumps you for a guy named Evan who wrote a sonnet to her—return to ‘Go.’” “Darn it,” he says. “I never get a break.”
It’s Ronnie Moskol’s turn and he moves to the “Bad Break” square and draws his card. “Your story ‘Abominable Snowwoman’ is about to be published when editor finds you previously posted it to your blog. Repay $100 to Publisher.” “Yay!” Evan shouts, “I’m getting rich!”
“Sorry–yucky boys can’t land on the Women’s Studies square.”
Finally Timmy moves his piece two spaces and lands on the “Death” square. “What’s going to happen?” he asks Ronnie nervously.
“It could be anything,” Ronnie says reassuringly. “You could draw a Ripe Old Age card and live long enough to become famous and sleep with a lot of college girls.”
Still, Timmy is nervous as he slowly turns over a card that says “You commit suicide at the age of 27 having published only one short story and two poems.” A look of disappointment steals over his face. “I guess I lose, huh?” he asks Ronnie.
“Are you kidding?” his more literary friend says with disbelief. “You win!”
“But I hardly published anything and I killed myself.”
“That’s the best career move of all!”