What to read? What to read?

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 BooPawn 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. )

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4 thoughts on “What to read? What to read?

  1. The meaningful books are the ones with the PR departments behind them, gathering the sheep, Nate. Hell, those are even the ones they talk about on NPR. (The PR departments would influence the educational system’s choices, too. And, to a large degree, they help create the looking-down-nose syndrome.)

    • It’s hard to say if I’m too obstinate to read the New York Times Bestseller List or somewhat wise. Pushing everyone to make their own choices is often met with resistance. It would be a little naive to think there weren’t ulterior motives aside from laziness. Any industry is based on money, and for a few dollars more, persuasion can be lucrative. I could rant about the lust of gold, but I know that devil well.

      At least I have a platform here to convey my thoughts, even if they are a bit lofty.

  2. “You can take a whore to culture, but you can’t make her think”. I’m with you, although I don’t know who NPR are. To my mind the problem is that we’re creating a truly low brow society because it’s easier, and it doesn’t show some people to be cleverer than others, which would be so unfair on little Tommy who’s really a bright, kind boy even though he behaves like a total cunt most of the time.
    We seem to want a world where it’s always playtime. We’ve invented a new way of speaking so as not to “offend” anyone. We’ve also made greed very important, as having a lot of shiny things defines your rank our society.
    I’ll stop there……but I’m with you, actually:)

    • NPR stands for National Public Radio. It’s more or less the American equivalent to the BBC (aside from the Public Broadcasting System aka PBS). I have a huge love/hate relationship with NPR, as they can very informative but also very clueless as the same time.

      I see I touched off a small rant. Ha! Well, I do agree the American culture revels in low-brow humor, but reserve saying too much about the English. I remember watching shows like Little Britain and thinking “wow, that’s really blue!” However, I thought those shows to be in the minority. I know about “chavs,” and we have plenty of them in Hooterville. Often aggressive with self-aggrandized attitudes, I call them “alpha fails.”

      The English complain about programming like Top Gear for being offensive. I’d like to see how many Englishmen have watched Jersey Shore, Dog the Bounty Hunter, or Operation Repo. Maybe they would give us Americans a pass for liking it after looking the other way with Jeremy Clarkson?

      The key phrase in your comment is “because it’s easier.” That, to me, is very significant. Ever since society has been keeping up with the Joneses, we have pressed for convenience in everything. With that, the satisfaction of discipline and pride in cultivation have less importance. With the younger generations, we’ve missed out on seeing the benefits of refinement and don’t often think about its advantages.

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