You Deserve Good Books

When I found out You Deserve Nothing was a story set in Paris, I had to read it. There are times when I want to read a certain kind of book, or a book where it has a distinct setting. Plus, it had a great title.

You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik is a novel about a 33-year-old American teaching English and Philosophy courses to high school students in Paris. He’s passionate about his job and his ability to inspire his students to introspective thinking and personal accountability. The students love him (especially the girls).

The novel has three narrators, William (the teacher), Marie, and Gilad, two students. There are some great scenes in William’s classroom where he leads discussions on choices we make and determining meaning in the world (an obvious overarching theme for the story, specifically using Camus). As the novel progresses, William gives into his affections for a student and later finds himself in a situation where the material he teaches in class is put to the test.

For me, the character of William in the novel is reminiscent of Humbert Humbert in Lolita–it’s a young man who challenges the reader to decide if what he did was morally wrong. William’s actions in the novel can be interpreted in a couple of ways depending on the reader’s opinion.

The other theme I appreciate in the novel is that of a student’s disillusionment from the teacher. William’s students adore him and how he treats them like adults. They work hard on their papers and readings (as seen through Gilad) in the hopes William would notice. But during a public protest that gets tense, Gilad sees his teacher isn’t the hero he made him out to be. The veil of the powerful authoritative teacher is pulled away, and even William admits to the majority of teaching as a performance.

I really liked this novel so much that I researched Maksik and then came across the Jezebel article. If you are interested in reading the novel, I urge you not to read the article until you’ve completed the book. There are some spoilers.

In my opinion, go to the library and take out this book to read it. Treat it as a work of fiction and enjoy the detailed imagery of Paris, the intricate classroom discussions and how the story relishes moral ambiguity. You deserve a good read!