Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Read

There’s an axiom that’s been floated for a long time (how long? A century or two?), that the act of reading, in and of itself, is somehow intellectually nutritious. A noble pursuit.

I wonder how many books I’ve read. How many I’ve cracked for a one-night stand, with plots hell bent for leather, salivating to a destination.

I’ve read many books, not beginning to end, but beginning and end, skipping over the middle. To the there, there.

I’ve bought books based on the covers alone. Pretty, pretty faces. I’ve read parts of books that have been passed along, for my consideration. Just to get them off the shelf.

I’ve read cereal boxes, comic books, toilet paper wrappers, junk mail, license plates, the labels on my fruit.

Not instructional manuals, I never read instructions. I feel I’m the only one who can write them well. I could be wrong, since I never read instructions.

But I read and re-read stories. For their incidental music.

Miss Maudie, Miss Maudie, in your flower print dress. Eternally watering the roses. Atticus will never notice, I can tell you that now, as I told you ten years ago, and twenty.

But you still call out to him – it is to him, isn’t it? “Your father can make a will so airtight no one can break it!” He doesn’t turn around. He never will. He’ll just raise a hand and say, “You be good, children.”

Maudie will dress up again tomorrow, and fill her pitcher with water. The plants won’t wilt and flowers will bloom.

36 comments:

  1. I've wondered the same thing.....LOTS! I don't read instructions either but maybe that's why I always have leftover parts after I put something together on my own;)

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  2. Come fall I'll be reading Modern World Literature. Any author's you recommend (1st half 20th C)?

    Read Gatsby at your urging, oh, two years ago?

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  3. I always wondered about Atticus and Maudie...

    GG

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  4. Is she the one poor Scout has to read to? And she calls Scout some nasty names, if I recall.

    I'm not a fast reader. This gives me time to decide if a book is worth reading at all, and the older I get the less patience I have. I've read many beginnings but fewer endings.


    WV: garbwel: Miss Maudie is well-dressed.

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  5. Wrong neighbor, Petrea.

    Bandit -- you bet! Let me draw up a list.

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  6. I’ve read some books too. Sometimes two at the same time, which generally make difficulties.

    Btw: I often read the instruction manuals, not often written well, after I’ve taken the equipment in use to see if I did it right.

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  7. I have a two-hour daily commute, so I am among the legions who listen now, even more than read. Can I say I've read a book when I really haven't?

    There are some books (not a lot, but some) that are just not meant to be read aloud.

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  8. I listen more than I read now, too, I especially like to fall asleep listening.

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  9. What to say;

    License plates:
    Are you addicted?

    The labels on my fruit:
    Interesting.

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  10. I read...a lot. Some stories are so haunting they live on and on in my brain. Sometimes I rewrite the story in my head so it ends how I would have lived it. And I often go back to a book a few years later if I loved it, to see if I still love it. I'm afraid I don't know Maude, however.

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  11. that was certainly nourishing!
    Karin, check out a friends blog, I think you might like. TwitteringMachines.com, kind of a thinking, artsy guide to music and such...

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  12. I used to read till I put this back lit time suck into my life. Now I have information at my fingertip and the attention span of a gnat.

    ...and I recently watched To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time. I didn't read the book but I've never met a lit major who didn't adore it.

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  13. A bit off topic, but I think it's funny when Lit majors argue that Capote wrote all or most of the book. I love his early stuff, love it deeply. But if Capote could have claimed anything in To Kill A Mockingbird -- the story, a paragraph, a line -- he would have told us.

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  14. And she ruled the street with her magisterial beauty.

    Petrea, she's the one who tells Scout why it is a sin to shoot mockingbirds after Atticus tells her not to. Maudie is the primary explainer in the novel.

    And Karin, Capote DID claim to write TKAM. Of course, he claimed a lot of things.

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  15. Oh how I miss having chunks of time to read. By the time I crack open a book at night, I can barely keep my eyes open after a page or two. And now I really want to read To Kill a Mockingbird again.

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  16. In our house, Marion reads voraciously. I check out piles of books at the library with the best of intentions, but only some get opened. And few of those get finished. Still, I feel that I'm constantly reading too--magazines and newspapers mostly (both supposedly dead, but alive and well with us). And the Intertubes, probably for hours, every day.

    Thank you for that beautiful passage, for reminding me just how wonderful To Kill a Mockingbird is.

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  17. Bandit, I'd say Faulkner for American, The Hamlet if you need a novel, otherwise his stories. Is Flannery O'Connor too recent? For European, try Joyce's stories in Dubliners--don't expect page-turners. Better bet for interest is Kafka. I'd stay away from Joyce's novels. If you need more action, Hemingway will do.

    Petrea and others, me too. Audio books are right up there with the TV remote for Most Compassionate Invention. But if it's serious lit, I do think we should ALSO go to the print versions to really absorb the language.

    Didn't know Capote was SUCH a scoundrel . . .

    Harper Lee only wrote the one, but I think some other major majors also wrote only one: Gatsby, Huck Finn, Invisible Man, The Sun Also Rises, Wuthering Heights, maybe Moby Dick. Dickens and Faulkner would be exceptions.

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  18. Ok Bandit, you'll regret you asked:

    (In no particular order): John Fante: Ask the Dust; Knut Hamsen: Hunger; Muriel Sparks: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; Rhys: Wide Sargasso Sea (this is an incredible narrative and written pov of the mad wife in Jane Eyre); West: Day of the Locust; Lolita; To Kill a Mockingbird; Tropic of Cancer; Henry James: Aspern Papers; JJ: The Dubliners; Chandler: Farewell my Lovely; Hammet: Continental Op; Cheever short stories ... more TK

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  19. Capote's a character in the story. He and Harper Lee were childhood friends.

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  20. "Folks call me Dill."

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  21. interesting observation re my post. You could be right. There was a lot of stress under the surface in my family, even before I came along. ! I was born a year after that photo was taken.

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  22. This post makes me long for library smell.

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  23. There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who like the old book-smell, and those who are dangerous psychopaths.

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  24. I would say, we are more or less a part of the game.

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  25. Far out! Geez, even a title or two would have been most gracious -
    Banjo, found Ulysses (Joyce) and Jacob's Room (Woolf) on the shelf at the neighborhood library. Sod the bleedin' Joyce; love the prose of Woolf, even without annotation. You know Faulkner will be a must.

    Picked up Mockingbird years ago; saw Day of the Locust on film, but I'll bet the book is a gas. The rest are mostly familiar, but unknown (unread) to me.

    Regarding smells: My earliest memories, and smells, are in a newspaper building and print facility. Now I live atop an antique shop. Amidst the rot of urban decay, sometimes I catch the blush of clover on summer ballfields, the pungency of the Mississippi in flood, the delicious odor of wet dogs, the biting moment entering into a world of white snow . . . Yes, mad, quite mad.

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  26. Had some fun rescuing some books from my dad's collection. Read Day of the Locust for a class about the Great Depression, I think. Enjoyed the Tropics books. Lots of courses in Henry James. Fascinating perspective he had. Copied your book list to my email and will consult it regularly.

    WV: geshrort It's German and it has to do with literature. That's all I know.

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  27. Earl, how lovely -- I'm honored. And Bandit, you get better all the time; you really do.

    And you guys have inspired my next post, which will be desert island books. Five of them. So start thinking, all of you. Five books, your only companions for the foreseeable future. Keeping in mind you will read them over and over again.

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  28. I can't imagine life without reading. I majored in English at San Diego State, loved every second of it and cherish that time of my life to this day.

    The younger generations are losing out on the joy of it all. We try to keep them engaged with programs such as our Summer Reading Club.

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  29. My neighbors just started a book group. I'm amazed how many people joined, and everyone's excited. You can get book club kits at the library. I shouldn't tell you that. the competition for checking out the ones we wanted this week was fierce.

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  30. Some of my best (and strongest) childhood memories are of reading -- from early books like Harold and the Purple Crayon and Ferdinand, to A Wrinkle in Time and The Secret Garden when I was a bit older. But I don't remember the books I had to read in school nearly as well. Hmm. I too need to make more time for reading. Or take a reading vacation. Or do a house swap with someone and read their books.

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  31. I used to be a voracious reader but now, so often I pick up a book that everyone says is fabulous and I put it down after a few pages wondering what they saw in it. It's been a while since I've been blown away so I've started with the recommendations here by requesting "The Dubliners" and Chandler on CD from La Bibliotheca. Limited Hammett, so maybe an interlibrary loan there.

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  32. Ferdinand! I love Ferdinand. Also Chanticleer and the Fox.

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  33. Man, I can relate. I distinctly remember getting glasses and being able to read signs, bumper stickers, license plates while we were in the car and it changed my life. I read all sorts of stuff (yes, cereal boxes too) and thinking about reading when I can't actually do it. Have you ever subscribed to the Sun magazine? Great small stories that I still reread.

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  34. No Bec, I haven't. But I'll check it out. (I see you're a Sedaris fan, too.)

    And Ferdinand is new to me. Since I cut my reading teeth on Wrinkle in Time and Secret Garden, better check out other Katie picks.

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  35. I still have my Ferdinand book...which I think was my mother's before me...which would make it ancient!!!
    Your book list is a bit over my head these days...periodically I pull out a more classic read, but I've succumbed to a bit of fluff reading...I read at night to wind down and get ready to sleep...
    But I have to say...I've been loving the Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammitt I've been reading lately!!!

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