Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Which are you?

Teaching English 1001 for LSU-Alexandria requires that I read many of the essays in our text.  Of course, I have to read the essays assigned for the course, but I do occasionally read other essays simply because I need to absorb written  words.

Tonight I spent a couple of hours reading the assigned text.  While doing so, I wrote notes in the margins analyzing the essays and highlighted passages that I want to discuss with students.  Imagine my surprise when I read Anne Fadiman's essay, "Never Do That to a Book."  It's an interesting essay in which Fadiman divides readers into two distinct groups: courtly lovers, who treat books with overzealous respect, and carnal lovers, who make books their own by writing notes, underlining, etc.

Have you figured me out yet?  I'm a carnal book lover but only when I'm reading one of my own personal books and only when the book is a text book (or my personal Bible) and I need to be able to see my notes and the text together.  It's so helpful to me to have the note RIGHT THERE, where the literary device is.  I love big white space--all that room to take notes is wonderful.

Ethan FromeI've said many times that I'm a wolf reader, meaning that I wolf down words, all words, as though my appetite can't be satisfied.  Gobbling them up as though someone else will eat the words before I do.  Others may be able to relish books, tasting every word, reading slowly and methodically, but I could never do that. If I have an hour or a day or even two or three days to read, I want to read as much and as many books as I can wolf down.  After all, there is always another book waiting, another by a favorite author, another part of the series, another author yet undiscovered.  How anyone can read as though time will never end, I can not fathom.

I suspect that heaven carries every manner of books, that we'll be able to read as part of our adoration of God, but I also suspect that Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Wharton, Eliot, and the rest are also still writing.  Thus, while I can read for eternity, how can I ever read it all?

In the end I've discovered that I'm a carnal book lover with a wolfish appetite!  How would you describe your bookish self?


Sarah~Magnolia Surprise said...

Courtly lover for me! Never write in them, never dog-ear a page, and never, ever, highlight!!

It just about killed me to make notes in my Bible! But I needed to, so I summoned up my strength!

jenclair said...

Carnal lover, here! I have notes of connections to use when teaching a piece. Heart of Darkness has dozens of notes referring to Dante and T.S. Eliot and Hawthorne. All the works I taught had reminders of things to include and connect.

One of my favorite professors said he would highlight in one color on the first reading and in different colors on subsequent readings. he also dated the colors. I've done this with Philip Lopate's book of essays and the many readings over the last 10-15 years.