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 I’ve gotten on my soapbox before about how high school English ruins reading for kids.  And be forewarned, here we go again.   But before I begin, I just want you to read this:

“This was the tree, and it seemed to me standing there to resemble those men, the giants of your childhood, whom you encounter years later and find that they are not merely smaller in relation to your growth, but that they are absolutely smaller, shrunken by age.  In this double demotion the old giants have become pigmies while you were looking the other way.”

I have one question.  How the HELL does anyone expect a 16-year-old to understand that?

The fact is, course, that they can’t.  They’re sixteen, mere emotional fetuses.  They read John Knowles beautiful words, but they don’t digest them.  They hear but they don’t listen (isn’t that typical teenager behavior?). They don’t get what this book is really about, which is deeply sad, because there is so, so much to “get.”

I know this, because I was asked to read this book when I was sixteen and I even I, a practically professional reader, almost forgot about the third protagonist – the war.  What I remember most was wondering idly which of the boys I would have liked to date (Finny of course!).   In that way I am (or rather, as I like to think, was) no better than the scads of Twi-hards in their Team Jacob and Team Edward tshirts.

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51q1ZdQ0YGL__SL500_AA240_“I love this book,” I said to Tim while attempting read in a moving car, something that, to my intense frustration, I have never quite managed to do without wanting to vomit (thankfully I can read on a moving train, which makes my long commute more bearable). 

 “Listen to this,” I said, quoting page one (yes, page ONE!!).

Hours later, not long after the genesis of Francis Wells’ idea, the party would meet a premature death with a cloud of plaster dust covering the Gardner’s guests, as well as a dessert table graced with spun-sugar Giacomettis and the life-sized sculpture of Michelangelo’s David, whose penis had all evening been dripping syphilitically.

 

“And this!” I raved.

By ten p.m. there had been three slideshows – one of which, “Hop Art: A  Portfolio,” projected photos of Bunny’s own work onto the ballroom walls, interspersed with a  series of dinner courses as carefully presented and unsatisfying as Francis’ wife.

“I didn’t want to love it, but there it is, how could I not?”

“Don’t you want to love all books?” he asked, confused.

I pondered his question; certainly its a valid one.   When it comes to reading, as with the rest of life, I’m total cynic. I certainly don’t expect to love all books – an inordinate amount of what is published is trash, or boring, or overdone (or pleasant and inoffensive, but forgettable).   But there are those who allege that cynics are disappointed idealists.  Maybe.  If it were not true that a vast majority of published works are just plain mediocre, if we did live in an ideal world, would I really want to love every book I read? 

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Jessica’s Reading

Jesse’s Reading

Jesse and Jessica are Both Reading

Devin’s Reading

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