The first paper in the Leaving Certificate exams, English I, is just complete.
At Higher Level, which almost all our candidates take, the theme this year was 'Mystery', and the texts were all contemporary ones by Irish writers. All should have proven interesting and stimulating. The first was this piece by Lara Marlowe of the Irish Times - not about French or American political life, but her 'veneration' of cats since she was a child. This was followed by an extract from Colum McCann's "9/11" novel Let the Great World Spin (currently shortlisted for the 2011 IMPAC award). It was the moment Philippe Petit stepped onto the cable between the Twin Towers, an event memorably dealt with by the brilliant documentary Man on Wire (see clip below). The third text was another piece of recent Irish fiction, an extract from Kevin Barry's short story 'Wintersongs', from his collection There Are Little Kingdoms (reviewed here last year by John Self in his Asylum blog, who called it 'charming, funny and assured').
The Higher Level composition list also caused no consternation for our own candidates. Personal writing of one kind or another was to the fore, including a discursive piece on modern technology's impact on young people's lives (lots of writing about Facebook, presumably), a straightforward descriptive essay on 24 hours in the life of a city, and a short story question on, of course, mystery.
The reaction was positive, and now it's back to the books for the literature paper tomorrow.