Reading Day!

20Feb09

I had the day off today!  So I did my favorite thing besides actually doing things: reading.  A former student of mine lent me a book of essays that she read in her CO150 (College Composition) course last semester.  I read these essays:

“The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me” by Sherman Alexie

“Men, Women, Sex, and Darwin” by Natalie Angier

“On Compassion” by Barbara Lazear Ascher

“Lost in the Kitchen” by Dave Barry

“Never Just Pictures” by Susan Bordo

“How You Became You” by Bill Bryson

“A Clack of Tiny Sparks: Remembrances of a Gay Boyhood” by Bernard Cooper

“On Keeping a Notebook” by Joan Didion

“The Ways We Lie” by Stephanie Ericsson

That’s a lot, eh?  Anyway, my favorites were the ones by Sherman Alexie (I love him; he’s amazing), Natalie Angier, and Bernard Cooper.  The one by Cooper just felt so…true.  It was a personal narrative sort of essay, but just fantastic.  I could feel it, and I’ve never been a gay boy, so there you go.

The Alexie one was sort of vintage Alexie; he’s not afraid to be a little arrogant, except he is, except he’s not, and I love that tension of ego.  Unrelatedly, my favorite line was, “My father loved books, and since I loved my father with an aching devotion, I decided to love books as well.”  I like the acknowledgment that we decide to love things, often because of our love for others.  He goes on to explain that he never meant to be a writer, but all that reading and all that he was seeing around him sort of drove him to it.  (That must mean there’s some hope for us closet writer-wannabes who read more than is probably healthy, except I feel that my life has somehow been far less meaningful than Alexie’s.) For some reason, it really struck me when he was explaining that he’d never taken a creative writing class because it was never offered on the reservation.  He says, “In all my years in the reservation school system, I was never taught how to write poetry, short stories, or novels.  I was certainly never taught that Indians wrote poetry, short stories, and novels.  Writing was something beyond Indians.”  Can you believe the shit that we take for granted as part of the master culture?  Imagine never being taught that people of your own race have ever created literature–that it was an endeavor to be pursued by other, more worthy subjects!  Insane to think about in any real sort of way.

The Angier essay was my favorite for sure.  She does an excellent job of using evolutionary psychologists’ own logic against them in order to reveal the fact that “science” can totally be manipulated to forward a particular worldview, and to point out, at least implicitly, that things are generally only considered “political” if they challenge rather than perpetuate the status quo.  You (you!) should check it out.  Since most of you know me, you could just ask and I could send you a copy of it.

This feels like a boring post, but I’m really excited about reading again, so you get my (somewhat abbreviated) thoughts on it.  Maybe more later.

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