I’d like to grapple with the idea of being “well read” in a typical sense. When we discuss being well read, the assumption is being knowledgeable about books. There is no definitive set of books, as being well read is based on personal judgment. Be warned, there will be plenty of other people who’d love to tell you differently. They misunderstand the rules of conduct, which is similar to a doctor’s visit: you know yourself better than anyone.
While the staff at NPR would like to defecate their britches over the statistical impossibility of being well read, I find persistence a little more useful. Are we to cry into our thimble full of knowledge because the ocean is vast? No, we should take pride in the fact we picked up a thimble and drank from that water. That means we wanted fulfillment beyond basic human sustenance.
As NPR is wont to do, it assumes people naturally want continuous scholastic achievement. This is how out of touch with the ordinary person they are. The typical American doesn’t give a flying fig about reading, and to a lesser extent being well-versed in any genre of music. That concept of erudition is limited to a lesser number of people.
The good folks at NPR reek of guilt, which always gets my dander up. Why? Because it’s often based on the notion you should feel guilty, too. For example, the author of the NPR piece is lamenting through the whole story statistics will surely make us all feel sad we can’t “see it all.” I’ve got news for you. The people who punch the cookie on the east side of Hooterville are only interested in Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Pawn Star, and/or Real Housewives of [insert location]. They’re not going to shed one tear that they didn’t see Pagliacci or read Infinite Jest. They are comfortable in being simple, and find their minds more preoccupied with monetary matters than scholastic.
How could anyone, then, gain a feeling of being well-read or otherwise accomplished? Know thyself. With the proliferation of books and other media, all of us can customize a more meaningful list of reading material. I’m fairly certain my material is in classical literature. Ergo, that’s my emphasis. This will not be the same set of books for anyone else.
Well… well… well… how can we tell if someone is well-read when we have no standards to compare them with, Nate? I mean come on! We all need standards, right? To that point of view, I say I think we’re beyond harnessing any sort of discernible standard. Funny how humans think they can control everything. The upshot of this is people have less of a reason to be judgmental. Great googly-moogly, Nate! How will the literary elite survive without their ability to look down their nose at the Twilight readers?! The short answer is they still will, but for more subjective reasons. I think that more honest than hiding behind the veil of academics.
This idea could be very beneficial to the American educational system. The concept of identifying meaningful literature should be the goal, not telling you what literature is meaningful. It would move them away from their manufacturing mentality, and embrace something a little more elastic. I come from the position it’s more important to exercise discretion than regurgitation.
But… but… but… OMG STANDARDS, NATE! STANDAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRDS! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH… what a world… what a world… what a world…
(If you couldn’t tell, they just melted into a controlled puddle of goo. )