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Friday, February 29, 2008

On Reading as Life-long Learning... Heathcliff Speaks.

A few years ago, my excitement about Mark Edmundson's book "Why Read" reached such a peak it nearly bordered on the manic. I felt that Edmundson's point was so clearly how I felt that I immediately began to preach his gospel. It basically states that we read to grow humanistically, to understand ourselves and our peers better. Simple enough as a premise, but to keep this constantly present is easier said than done. I have so say with much regret that I didn't enjoy reading "Wuthering Heights" much--or at least I didn't enjoy it until the lesson became clear to me. Heathcliff waits all the way to Chapter 33 to say:

"The entire world is a dreadful collection of memoranda that she did exist, and that I have lost her."

I don't think I have ever taken a line from a character in a novel more serious than this one. It goes back to Edmundson's premise: "to learn about ourselves, to understand our humanity." Heathcliff speaks of that incomparable sense of loss we've all experienced at one time or another (some of us more than others). The reader knows, I believe, that once he/she comes across a line like this one, the enlightenment is quite unavoidable. One must really not be paying attention to miss such a thing. Again, I confess this was not a book I absolutely adored or enjoyed, but felt an irresistible sense of duty to finish it regardless of its shortcomings. I am glad I waited--glad that in the penultimate chapter, finally, as the pages evaporated in front of me, Heathcliff spoke.

I am reading a series of lighter books about the writing process as the decompression from "Wuthering Heights" continues. Natalie Goldberg's books all seem to preach the same premise. I often see her as a hippy, out there on her own little world (Zen, and peace and love and puppies), and I wonder how people can embrace that lifestyle. They are far healthier for it, too. I don't think I've ever been one of those "organic, do-it-yourself, granola eating, greenie" type and now I am wondering why I never embraced that way of life. It really does seem a heck of a lot easier living than what I am doing. I am not trying to trivialize it; I really mean this in a good way.

We had two snow days this week (Tuesday and Wednesday) and I finally caught up with my sleep. This, of course, at the expense of other things like writing and running, but what the heck, I just needed it. Teaching is good and writing is good... and the weekend is here.

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At 1:41 PM, Blogger Heather said...

Thank goodness for weekends.

At 8:37 PM, Blogger Imani said...

Sleep and weekends rock. I never liked Wuthering Heights much, either, mostly because all the characters were so miserable and conniving all the time that I just wanted them to have their miserable ends and get it over with. :p Emily Bronte could set a mood though, and sustain it over a full-length work, I'll give her that, and her descriptive scenes were awesome. But I wouldn't want to read it again.


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