TEACHING DAEDALUS
Bevan McGuiness

 


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BeWrite Books, 2006
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Australia

Chemistry teacher Cornelius Monk has been teaching the same things in the same way for so many years because it works. He can gauge a class and plan a successful strategy for it in its first few minutes. We can see that he is skilled and insightful, but withered at his core.

So what is this surfer bum doing in the story? First chapter, someone named Neil is shooting the pipeline of a great wave. I'll help you sort out the timeline (it could use a little help, at first) by telling you that Neil is the young Cornelius. Neil is looking for a life that Matters. He does it while sharing his house with a come-and-go group of friends, his adopted family. He cares. He loves life.

How does Neil the hippy relate to Mr Monk the set-in-his-ways teacher? Mr Monk still has a few of his ideals. He can see the potential in his students, even the worst ones. He attracts people against his will and to the mystification of many. This year he has attracted Elizabeth, a troubled student, and Suzie, a gorgeous new teacher. Both of them are problems he can't puzzle out.

Author Bevan McGuiness describes Daedalus as the maze-builder of Greek myth. The modern Mr Monk is the builder and the maze, with all his secrets hidden away. TEACHING DAEDALUS gradually unveils the mysteries of Mr Monk through the development of its two timelines.

It's easy to see that author McGuiness is a teacher. He knows schools, classrooms and school politics. It is his own insights that he gives to Mr Monk, to make him such an admirable teacher. McGuiness is probably a bit of a school troublemaker because of his realistic viewpoint. He gives TEACHING DAEDALUS a special authenticity.

I enjoyed TEACHING DAEDALUS in spite of my initial bewilderment at the way the chapters jump around in time. Neil and Cornelius are so different I didn't see how they could possibly be the same person. It didn't help that Neil had jumped locations when the text first returned to him. But soon after that things got sorted out in my head, and I settled in to get to know this intriguing, enigmatic man and his colorful associates. Is he likeable? Certainly not in the accepted sense. Do I care? Yes. I have been thinking about TEACHING DAEDALUS instead of the Edgar winner that I started reading next.

June 2008

 

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