Get Me Some Book-Larnin’

Drawing: Samuel ClemensJust because I have had the benefit of a decent education doesn’t mean I am smart. We all know that it’s entirely possible to have any number of degrees and diplomas, plaques and endorsements, letters and titles decorating your name and still be a complete fool. Idiocy is a far less rare condition than the number of high school and university graduates would have us believe.

Indeed, I have read a great quantity of writings during the course of my life, but I would never go so far as to say that I am well read. Among other contradictions to that claim would be my incredible slowness as a reader, both in speed and in comprehension: as a multifaceted dyslexic, able to turn words, letters, numbers, directions and relative spatial placements all inside out and upside down without even trying, I can easily spend four times the amount of energy and hours reading that any decent reader would need to get through the same amount of text. And of course that doesn’t guarantee that I will actually understand what I read in precisely the way the authors intended.

A more important reason that I don’t consider myself well read is that I have managed to conquer only a relatively small segment of the library most scholarly and literate persons would consider to be well written, informative, accurately researched and defended, or just plain must-read, important stuff among books. Long before I knew why it took me so long and so many tries to read a mere paragraph, let alone a book, I was required to tackle a handful of the so-called Classics of literature, and a bit of contemporary contenders for the title as well. It’s just as well I didn’t imagine I had such an anomalous reading style or that it was considered a disability by others, because I might have had yet more frustrations and difficulties in trying to fit the mold of how one was expected to overcome such things, instead of finding that by plodding through in my own backward way, I became attached to some of the books and stories to an equally unexpected depth. Whom should I, as a struggling reader, admire most among authors but those champions of the dense and complicated, say, Charles Dickens and Robertson Davies.

On the other hand, it’s probably less surprising that I also favor the purveyors of the most outlandish and appalling and ridiculous, from Ogden Nash, Evelyn Waugh, and Edgar Allan Poe to Mark Twain, S.J. Perelman and Franz Kafka. This part at least makes some sense, if you tend to believe I’d read writers who reflect something of my own mind’s workings or the weird ways in which I see the world. In any event, this latter crew might explain a little more about my tending to choose the least arduous paths in life, since I find a certain sort of familiarity in the strangest of their inventions and so can perhaps navigate their writings with a surer strength than otherwise.

So while I may not be the sharpest pencil in the drawer or the most edified of readers, I have at least a few pieces of proclamatory paper in my coffers to prove that I did my homework somewhat dutifully if not doggedly. My degrees don’t confer any special wisdom upon me, but they at least excuse my curmudgeonly attitude about how long it takes me to read my own posts, let alone anyone else’s books and articles and poems and proposals, no matter how brilliant and scintillating and clever and beautiful they are. I’m still trying, but give me plenty of time!

10 thoughts on “Get Me Some Book-Larnin’

  1. My dear Kath, you, I can say with utmost confidence are more well read than I will ever be! You are always a wonderful inspiration to me.
    Love and hugs across the oceans to you.
    🙂 Mandy xoxoxo

    • I’m so glad your arms are so long: you give the *best* hugs!!! 🙂 It’s all relative, isn’t it, anyway, this being educated. I think you and I are both fortunate to have had upbringings in family and culture where education and literacy were valued and encouraged and provided. That it, in both cases, allows us to live well and attentively in our particular lives and milieus says that we are *both* well read in the ways that matter most to us!
      Much love and many hugs right back, my darling Mandy!

  2. “Outlandish and appalling and ridiculous” is closer to real…according to that popular phrase “stranger than true”…that is how it goes, right? I’m sure it is. We’ll just agree on that. Would be weird not to.
    (fun post)

    • I’m pleased you enjoyed this one. Truth is stranger than fiction and that, in turn, is a strange truth, for what it’s worth. All only leading to the truest tidbit of all: that I am strange. 😀 I think *everyone* can agree on *that*! 😉

  3. I didn’t know well enough to appreciate it at the time, but when I returned to college as a working mom, I found out that I truly and thoroughly enjoyed the process of learning (gettin’ me some schoolin’). My nemesis was numbers, so obviously, I jumped in with both feet, determined to conquer the unconquerable. It took me three tries to get the A in College Algebra, (and required that I tutor a blind student in order to understand the material enough to teach it), but eventually, when I finally secured that A, it helped me realize that even the impossible is sometimes possible.

    Maybe not so surprisingly, all the language classes were my favorites. While others in the class were bemoaning the travails of Billy Budd and Captain Ahab, I was greedily gathering up compass points for further exploration. I dove deep into Melville and Dickinson, and had visions of Poe and Kafka and Twain as my constant companions. I was particularly fond of Poe, having memorized the entirety of The Raven, as well as most of The Tell-Tale Heart.

    Perhaps my favorite of all time was A Hundred Thousand Straightened Nails by Donald Hall. If I remember correctly, I was introduced to him through My Son, My Executioner (a very short, but powerful poem, of which you might be familiar), and naturally, my insatiable curiosity prompted me to seek out some of his other works. I loved following the tendrils and trails of new discoveries. Thanks for bringing back some of that nostalgic glow from those literary days gone by. Oh, the memories! These days, I do good to read Calvin and Hobbes (loved it), or Dr. Suess (always superb). Or interesting blogs, like your own. 🙂

    • Wow, your scholarly accomplishments impress me greatly! Good old Donald Hall, yes. A wonderful poet and educator. Your memorization of Poe makes me think you’d’ve loved the LP we listened to so avidly as kids, with the estimable Basil Rathbone telling the tales—perfect fodder for giddy scary-story fests in the darkened living room. But there is nothing lacking, either in language use or content, when it comes to Watterson and Seuss, either, is there! Just because I take my literature in smaller bites nowadays doesn’t mean I don’t still crave quality. 🙂 Unlike you, however, I have never managed detente with numbers, let alone conquered them in any aspect. So I will remain in your shadow there! 🙂

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