Back to School

The 2008 Back to School Guide

The Stranger's 2010 Back to School Guide

The Stranger's 2011 Back to School Guide

How to Get In and Out of Trouble

What Are You, New?

Do Stuff!

Everything You Need to Know About School

Your Country

Alumni Testimonials

Lindy West's Guide to Sex and Dating

Drinkin', Druggin', Screwin'

What Are You, Under 21?

Academic Trouble

Your City

All You Need to Know About Everything

A Guide to Sex, Drugs, and Dropping Out

Everything You Need to Know About the City

What Are You, Sober?

Everything You Need to Know About Life

Christopher Frizzelle's Guide to Coming Out

Drinking Trouble

Cheap and Fun

What Are You, Idealistic?

Bethany Jean Clement's Guide to Immoderate Drinking

Staying Awake

Hands Off, Jackass

What Are You, Scared?

Social Trouble

Brendan Kiley's Guide to Drugs

Grant Brissey's Guide to Music

Jeremy Eaton

COLLEGE IS YOUR TIME to immerse yourself wholeheartedly in the splendors of academia. However, with all the compulsory extracurricular activities--drugs, sex, movies, naps, anguished staring into space--even the best students occasionally find themselves with little or no time to meet the rigorous demands of schoolwork. Your instructors understand this, and every teacher worth his or her salt is as impressed by a student's ingenious ass-covering as by legitimate academic achievement.

To help you with this ass-covering, here are five of the most frequently assigned works of literature, broken down into nuggets that even the most drug-addicted, sexually compulsive, endless-nap-taking student can digest and comprehend in 45 seconds or less. In addition to basic info (title, author, genre), you'll find pertinent facts about the author, condensed plot descriptions, and "Quick Quotes"--bite-sized synopses that, when recited to a demanding instructor, make even the most ill-prepared student sound like Brainy McBookenstein. For exceptionally lazy students, there are "Short Cuts," speedy paths to at least a D+; for overachievers, there are "Extra Credit" assignments, guaranteed to get anyone's indolent ass on the Dean's List.

Title: King Lear
Author: William Shakespeare
Genre: Classic drama

Pertinent Author Info: Wrote during the reign of Elizabeth I; rumored to be gay; rumored to be Christopher Marlowe (and Francis Bacon and John Fletcher).

Plot Synopsis: Elderly king divides his kingdom between three daughters. All hell breaks loose, and nearly everyone dies. Plus, there's an annoying fool.

Quick Quote: "Sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child."

Short Cut: Watch Kurosawa's film Ran, where the daughters are swapped for sons and everyone's Japanese.

Extra Credit: Mount a one-person puppet production of the play using only fruits and vegetables.

Title: Walden
Author: Henry David Thoreau
Genre: Autobiography/nature studies

Pertinent Author Info: American writer, philosopher, and naturalist of the mid-19th century; advocate of individual rights and opponent of social conformity; father of "passive resistance"; friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Plot Synopsis: Man spends two years living and writing in a crude hut on the shores of Walden Pond, located on the outskirts of Concord, Massachusetts.

Quick Quote: "Walden ably demonstrates how abstract ideals of libertarianism and individualism can be effectively instilled in a person's life."

Short Cut: Watch Survivor and pretend there's only one contestant.

Extra Credit: Spend a weekend living and writing in a small closet stuffed with houseplants.

Title: The Portable Nietzsche
Author: Friedrich Nietzsche
Genre: Philosophy

Pertinent Author Info: German philosopher, poet, and philologist of the late 19th century; influenced by Schopenhauer; father (along with the Marx Brothers) of punk rock; name pronounced KNEE-chuh.

Plot Synopsis: Good and evil don't exist; morality is relative; Christians are stupid.

Quick Quote: "God is dead."

Short Cut: Commit suicide before exam.

Extra Credit: Punch a Christian; know what "philology" is.

Title: Ulysses
Author: James Joyce
Genre: Fiction (impenetrable stream-of-consciousness division)

Pertinent Author Info: Celebrated Irish poet and novelist of the early 20th century; celebrated drunk.

Plot Synopsis: Two guys wander around Dublin, ruminating; later a woman has a very long orgasm. Based on Homer's Odyssey.

Quick Quote: "I was particularly moved by the 'oxen of the sun' section."

Short Cut: Drop acid, read first page.

Extra Credit: Drop acid, read entire book.

Title: Beloved
Author: Toni Morrison
Genre: Fiction (dead baby ghost story/oral history of slavery division)

Pertinent Author Info: African American author of late 20th century; Nobel Prize winner; friend of Oprah

Plot Synopsis: To save her infant daughter from a life of slavery, slave woman Sethe bashes her baby's brains out against the wall of a shed. Later, the ghost of the child (now a young woman) haunts Sethe, nearly driving her out of her mind.

Quick Quote: "Slavery is bad."

Short Cut: Watch the movie. (Yes, all of it.)

Extra Credit: Watch Amistad. (Yes, all of it.)