For Thursday, July 14, 2016:
“No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence or whose attitude is patronizing.”
E. B. White
It’s been a long while since I’ve been here – a month from my last post that thanked you all for your patience, and probably another month since I posted anything of substance. It’s been so long that my stats page flickered while it was trying to load, probably because it had to go back so far!
While there are still many and myriad medical things going on, there are now some down times and I’ve felt words coming back a few at a time, so I thought I’d make a stab at some brainwork and ease back into my blog. It probably won’t be every day, but I hope it’ll be a lot more frequent than the past couple of months. Again, thank you for your patience.
One of the goals I set for myself during this somewhat-enforced hiatus was to read books that really stretched me in some way. The book I finished a few days did just that. When I saw A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin on the library shelf, I grabbed it because I’d read Canin’s earliest couple of books and was very impressed. When I read the inside of the book jacket, however, I almost put it back on the shelf. This was a thick novel about a mathematician. I opened it and glanced through some of the pages. To my dismay, though not surprisingly, there were mathematicians’ names, formulae and concepts that made my eyes glaze over – and that was just from a quick glance.
To understand my dismay, you have to know that I almost didn’t graduate from high school because of my abysmal math grades. I found out decades later that I have dyscalcula (I think that’s the right term), the equivalent of dyslexia with numbers and figures. At the time, though, all I knew was that I had to promise not to enroll in any college classes that required math.
As I lifted the book back to its shelf, I reminded myself of my goal … so, against my better judgment, I took it over to the check-out desk. I figured I could always take it back to the library if it gave me headaches.
Well, far from it. It didn’t take long before I was entranced – entranced! – by the storyline, by the writing style, by everything I was learning. Yes, some of it was over my head, but only a little. I was surprised at how much I understood. Most of all, I was amazed at Canin’s gift of writing about such a dense subject and his complicated character in such a way that actually compelled this reader, at least, through to the last page.
Canin obviously doesn’t distrust his readers’ intelligence. He had a story to tell and he did so in such a way that encouraged growth rather than going for the lowest common denominator. And he made it a good book at the same time.
I’m glad I decided to stretch myself. I think this is probably what has enabled a few words to flow ever since.