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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Lorca as reader

I'm reading this book about Lorca as a reader. It is ok; not the greatest but I am prejudiced against the author LGM. Anyway, there is always something to be learned even if the information is not presented efficiently here.

I was thinking that my life as a reader might be of some interest. After all, I belong to those whose identity was formed by reading. LGM points out that this might not be the case for subsequent generations. It was not the case for my own generation, but it was for me, and might be increasingly uncommon in future generations.

So...

I think my first author was Milne. We had some poetry books by him, like When we were very young. I was taught to read using a phonetic alphabet in first grade, and then switching to the normal alphabet in 2nd. Some kind of educational experiment. So this was my first poetry too. I liked the odd reversal of perspective in the poem in which Christopher Robin does not allow his mother to go into town by herself. I don't remember any prose by Milne from that time. I think there was another book called Now We are Six.

I wasn't yet a great reader. My next big discovery was a library in my third-grade school. We had moved from Ann Arbor to Piedmont, a suburb of Oakland while my father did a visiting thing at Berkeley. My other school had not had a library where you could just go and check out books. It was here I was born as an intellectual. I checked out books on history, mostly. I wanted to know the history of the entire world and loved ancient civilizations most of all. It was like the Zukofsky line Creeley quotes: "Born very young into a world already very old." I read a child's illustrated book about the First World War and memorized all the information therein. Although the information could not have been very complete, I'm thinking, I never had any problems the rest of my life remembering anything about that war.

I read the Bible and wondered about the weird logic of events there. The Israelites would just never learn from their mistakes, and kept getting wicked over and over again. It was pretty obvious what would happen each time they got wicked again. I wasn't quite sure what they were doing wrong, because there was kind of a vagueness there, whereas the God seemed very immediate and real. "Walking with God" I took as a literal expression. You could find him and walk with him, so why would anyone do any different if it was an actual guy who seemed all powerful and would punish you immediately if you messed up. This was the cause of my loss of religious faith about a year later (one of the causes). But anyway, it was fun to cheer the Israelites invading a country that God had promised them, but then frustrating when they couldn't keep their act together. I read Beverly Cleary, and when I pictured the house where Henry or Beezus lived it was my house. Their mother looked like mine.

I pretty much read anything I could get my hands on from around then. I liked old boy scout manuals. When the class would order Scholastic Books the box would come and each student would get a book or two and I would carry home the box with my 12 or 14 books, go home, and read them all at once. There was a book about a polar bear terrorizing an island, another about a boy building his own canoe. Later I would read Dr Seuss and Frank Baum to my brother, who had all the Oz novels, but fairly soon I switched to adult novels.

Reading then was absorption. The outside world disappeared and you were simply living inside the book. This is a strange way for identity to be formed because you are not yourself when reading. When you lift your head you wonder why you are you and not someone else. Identity is arbitrary because you were someone else, mentally, for several hours.

My main interest was in Greek mythology from age 9 or 10-11. It seemed like many years at the time, but looking back I see it was not a long stretch of time. I simply learned from books my father already owned about this subject. I was also interested in primatology and other subjects and became a reader of encyclopedias. It seemed that the encyclopedia was simply where the knowledge was, in complete form, A-Z. It was inexhaustible. I learned from those more than at school, which seemed a waste of time as far as learning was concerned, especially in those subjects which interested me. We had child's encyclopedia's and normal ones as well, and at one point we bought the newest Brittanica.

My first real novel was Of Human Bondage. I think my father must have explained what the title meant. Another reading that distanced me from religion.






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