The Need to Read

I’ve tried to read A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel a few times, but the foreign or unfamiliar names and places merely remind me of how much I don’t know and that I will always not know more than what I know. It doesn’t help that the list of things that I thought I knew shrinks as the years progress rather than grow. Kind of like my height and the opposite of my weight. Maybe I just can’t bear the load of all of this knowledge. Even the guy holding up the Atlas was a bit hunched over.

Not learning is death. It will be the end of the investigation, the journey. Nothing new will be added except for some hair on my head and finger nails.

I sometimes dream an existential dream in that there isn’t anything after death. We die. Our ashes are scattered or we’re put in the ground, and that’s it. It’s not quiet in the box all my myself. It’s probably even louder as there are no other sounds to distract myself from myself. I can still hear the voices in my head. I’ll be dependent upon my brain to keep me entertained for eternity or until I get a Get Out of Jail Free Card, aka a new life.” I could never hold entirely onto a Existential Thread for very long.

Earlier today I  was reading a report written when I  was four-years-old by Mrs. Parker, my elementary Nursery School Teacher. I don’t know it for a fact that I knew how to read at that time, but with the amazing literary stimulus around me, I highly doubt I didn’t. Books and the secret codes has had my attention for fifty-one, almost fifty-two years. This was especially so when I saw Curious George in cursive for the first time; those letters had to be from a foreign language.

Alberto Manguel believes that Reading comes before Writing. Kind of like the chicken and the egg controversy. Except when I take away words written on a page, the reading of an expression on someone’s face or in the weather reminds me how many way there are to read things. But who was the first one to sniff the air and say a storm was moving in?

After today’s acupuncture treatment, I pulled out two of the hundred of books I am simultaneously reading, A History of Reading and Watership Down by Richard Adams, and started the books from the beginning. Lately I have been chewing up books left and right, but they don’t sit right when not digested thoroughly. I’m the kind of reader that I have to sink my teeth into the text even if this means I have to read and re-read and take notes or at least pause. I’m the kind of reader that can read a sentence and make it sound like I understood every single word, but I sometimes only slightly recognize them, especially when dependent clauses started to have dependents of the dependents. What? Come again?

But that’s not how reading is taught. You don’t back the train up. You just keep going. How people could read a book in one sitting was beyond my imagination. I’ve tried to do that for the past fifty-two years.


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