MY ANGLE: Summer of my discontent—how Mark Twain and my dad conspired against me

My father has always been a big believer in the “trial by fire” method.

I can’t blame the man, really, as I’ve done my part in making him believe in its efficacy. Whether it’s my opinion on vegetables or the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland, he always proves me wrong in his grand “I told you so” moments.

By the time I was 9, he had grown so confident that he decided to overstep his bounds and interfere with the one thing I held dear (besides video games, of course): my summer reading.

Our mission that June day was to buy copies of “Island of the Blue Dolphins” and “By the Great Horn Spoon,” two books that I needed for my California history curriculum in the fall.

Of course, it was also time to pick my summer reading books.

As I scanned the children’s section for the newest “Edge Chronicles,” my dad walked up and handed me a book.

It was thick and heavy, two words that I immediately associated with “boring.”

What? Had this thing come from outside the children’s section?!

“It’s called ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,’” my dad said.

Oh, great, a sports novel.

“Don’t worry, you’ll love it.”

Yeah, sure.

The executive decision had been made, and we walked off to the cash register. I came out of that store two historical fiction novels and one tome of pure, unadulterated 19th-century literature richer.

Needless to say, the visit had not gone as planned.

So there I sat in my bedroom, reading a novel based in an era I knew nothing about (save that knights slay dragons) written by a man in whose time the only thing I could associate with was cowboys.

“If there’s a word you don’t know, look in the appendix. It’s in the back.”

It soon became apparent that, despite the novel’s lengthy appendix, it was quite difficult for me. I still don’t know what a hauberk is.

Two months later the deed was done. I’d hated every single minute. (There wasn’t even a dragon in it! And what kind of princess is named Sandy, anyway?)

But it would all be worth it. There would be no more “I told you so”’s.

I told Dad what I thought of the book and learned that there was something far, far worse.

“You’ll thank me later,” he said with a knowing smile.

Two months later I found a copy of “The Prince and the Pauper” on my desk.

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