• Bill Hobba
    28
    I think the style of teaching literacy etc is the important thing.

    I read a huge amount but mostly technical stuff in math/physics and some politics and philosophy. I wasnt always like that. At 12 years of age I read hardly at all, but was very interested in electronics so read a bit on that. I do not know why but I picked up my math book called Algebra and Geometry about then. I did a couple of problems, got more confidence, did more and so on. I finished it in about a week and was hooked. I went town to the local library and got more advanced books, teaching myself calculus at 13-14. I then applied it to electronics and a shocked how it made things I couldn't understand a snap. I basically went my own path forgetting what I as taught a school. My English suffered badly because it simply did not interest me, but did start reading a bit of science fiction. My English was so bad they had to call my parents in and had to do a IQ test. It was 151 so IQ was not an issue (its really about 130 - the test was biased heavily towards logic etc which I am good at - not the 'soft' areas like comprehension etc which was not my thing - I think it was to see if I had anything actually wrong rather than to get a real IQ). Anyway this is a lead up to what I think is the real problem in teaching literacy. My English teacher started asking my opinion on texts like Animal Farm in class. I said what I thought but was dismissed as if I as some kind of moron. My math and science teachers even had to speak to the English teacher to give me a fair go and explain why I was wrong rather than being dismissed. That sealed it - I switched off English/Humanities entirely and failed HS (except in math/science where I did well). I got into university though based on my good math/science marks and overall all was fine.

    Now why did this happen - teachers should never dismiss comments - they might seem wrong or silly, but it should be explained why. These days I am a believer in teaching by a Harkness table where everyone contributes and all ideas are subject to critical analysis. I think that is the key. You must learn to think for yourself with the teacher as a facilitator.

    Thanks
    Bill
  • god must be atheist
    506
    This rings true to me. I actually don't like MOST fiction so when I read (or watch) a story that I like, I am happy to re-read. I found that with the books I like, I actually liked them even more, on the 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th read. However, after the 5th or 6th read, I need like a decade off before I will get the same enjoyment again.ZhouBoTong
    This used to be precisely the case for me, too, until my mid- to late thirties, and it completely tapered off by 40. By forty, I refused to read almost any book.

    One single solitary exception was Imre Kertesz's book on his personal experiences during the Holocaust, titled "Fatelessness". ("Sorstalansag" in Hungarian.) I started to read that book at nine o'clock in the evening, in bed, and said to myself, I will read like 10 pages, and then put it away for the next day. Next I knew, while still reading, was that I was 3/4 through the book, and it was 4:30 in the morning. I kept on reading that book to the bitter end non-stop.

    Yeah, fuck. (Smucks his tongue.)
  • god must be atheist
    506
    I am, by the way, a person degreed in English. So, fuck me.Bitter Crank

    Please don't get a cow. In my entire life cascade-strength successes happened only and always when I kept my mouth shut. By not saying something in those pivotal moments of my life, I always managed to change the course of my fate for the better by not saying something I really wanted to say, and which turned out to be completely stupid.

    As an example, of the sort, but not quite the same: I was talking with my friend Paul, and I used the word "albeit" nonchalantly, and pronounced it the German way. All-Bite. He started to laugh uproariously, and said, he wondered how many job interviews I had blown by using that word with the wrong pronunciation.

    If you think about it, it is quite... idiosyncratic.
  • Grre
    113


    As an example, of the sort, but not quite the same: I was talking with my friend Paul, and I used the word "albeit" nonchalantly, and pronounced it the German way. All-Bite.

    I'm laughing right now. I have always pronounced it "All-Bite" (I'm not German though), maybe that's why no one ever understood what I was saying :chin: I also have always pronounced salmon Sowl-mon not SAM-in which has perturbed a good dozen people. I think that now we're getting into diction though, and less into written grammar/punctuation.


    Your experiences do not surprise me, my story was very similar but on the opposite side; I was extremely good at English/humanities and terrible at math until it became a cyclical issue where I avoided it because I was embarrassed I didn't/wouldn't understand. I taught myself everything I know about philosophy/science/history/politics but barely finished highschool due to my precarious engineering(technology), math (and gym) marks HAHA.
  • T Clark
    3.8k
    Now why did this happen - teachers should never dismiss comments - they might seem wrong or silly, but it should be explained why. These days I am a believer in teaching by a Harkness table where everyone contributes and all ideas are subject to critical analysis. I think that is the key. You must learn to think for yourself with the teacher as a facilitator.Bill Hobba

    I am a reader and was always meant to be one. I believe it was inevitable. I'm just a very verbal person. If no one had ever encouraged me or read to me, I think I still would be the reader I am today. For others, I'm sure it's different. You seem to be evidence for that.

    It's always seemed to me that it would make sense to let people read things that are relevant to what they are really interested in. I read "Silas Marner," "Leningen vs. the Ants," "To Start a Fire," "By the Waters of Babylon," and a lot of other stories considered to be significant literarily. I liked some, didn't like others, but it didn't divert me from where I was headed. For people not predestined to be readers as I was, I can see how it would have been discouraging.
  • Bill Hobba
    28
    There was one author that I did like not of the science fiction etc variety. I do not remember who but someone who knew me, was an avid reader of novels etc, suggested I read Victor Hugo. I gave it a try (The Man Who Laughs) and have since read other novels by him. I know he is a famous novelist, one English LIt graduate said to me one Victor Hugo is worth 10 F Scott Fitzgerald. I have read the Great Gatsby and thought - bla - but not Victor Hugo - he grappled with what I thought were genuine issues. I simply know they are both famous novelists. Is there something about Victor Hugo that sets him apart?

    Thanks
    Bill
  • god must be atheist
    506

    Victor Hugo is mainly known in his own country as a poet. He poed poems. Internationally he gained fame with his novels. They were easier to translate.

    What you saw in Hugo's works may have been his poetry. He uses incredibly strong allegories. He is also a left-wing writer, you know, bind up the broken, the sick, the downtrodden. A revolutionary, not in the literary sense, but in the real sense... supporter of the French revolution. (I don't actually know if he was a contemporary during those times.) I like that. He juxtaposes in his stories the characters' roles, so he creates an effect which would be comical, but he paints it painfully tragic.

    Maybe that's it. The laugh track that becomes a crying track. Your heart wrenches, your throat squeezes, and you fight back tears as you read.

    Characterization is also important. As well the ability to make the reader easily suspend his disbelief. F. Scott Fitzgerald was a ninnie in these aspects. He capitalized on describing the illustrious luxury of the times he writes about, but he is as empty as his characters are.
  • Bill Hobba
    28
    I thought Hugo was a Republican. I am centre maybe a bit centre right politically. Did Hugo go through phase's. Many certainty start left and become more to the centre later. I was strange, I started on the right and then became of the centre. I read Hugo when I had changed to the centre and certainly had no issues with the political views in his books.
  • god must be atheist
    506
    Whether Hugo was a Republicant or a mutant or a leftist, is not my concern. He had a heart. That's what impresses me.
  • Bill Hobba
    28
    He certainly did have a heart and that impresses me as well. Maybe that's it.
  • SophistiCat
    796
    I thought Hugo was a Republican.Bill Hobba

    LOL you guys. Yeah, you could say that Hugo was a republican, though not in the way you think.
  • god must be atheist
    506
    LOL you guys. Yeah, you could say that Hugo was a republican, though not in the way you think.SophistiCat

    I hereby declare that my wish is not to be thought of as a republican or Republican.

    I'm rather... a repelican. I repel good taste, helpfulness, and good will. Sex. Buckets of flowers and / or fish that feed hundreds. Chocolate cheese cake. Things fall up in my presence.
  • god must be atheist
    506
    LOL you guys. Yeah, you could say that Hugo was a republican, though not in the way you think.SophistiCat

    Okay. Socrates and Aristotle were republicans, too. Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, too. Knyaz Potemkin was a royalist. Alexndr Pushkin never pushed a kin of his, despite his name. And Rasputin had a rasp voice, and he put "it" in quite frequently all over the landscape dotted with attractive, white, blonde, aristocratic ladies and maidens of Moscow and St. Petersburgh.

    Gee whiz.
  • SophistiCat
    796
    Reader here. I read every day, though since I am a slow reader, I don't cover nearly as much ground as some. I don't have a good idea of how much other people outside of my small social circle read, so I can't really compare myself to others. I take no personal credit for my literacy - it was inculcated in me by my parents.

    I read mostly fiction - "serious" literature, with a bit of light fare for when I am too exhausted or distraught for more demanding stuff. I rarely read book-length non-fiction - I just don't value most of it enough to prioritize it over fiction. I was a bit surprised to see @Amity and others referring to reading fiction almost as if it was cheating at reading. On the contrary, I have always associated "reading" with fiction books, first and foremost.

    Shakespeare’s language is, of course, “dramatic” stage language. It doesn’t make for easy reading.Bitter Crank

    I actually find Shakespeare's dramatic "high" style easier than his "low" style - all that witty banter, in which most of the witticisms and sexual innuendos you wouldn't even understand without a commentary that runs twice as long as the text itself. I think I learned (and have long since forgotten) a dozen euphemisms for penis and vagina while reading an annotated Much Ado about Nothing (starting with the title, of course). In Henry IV I struggled with Falstaff's scenes, uproarious though they might be, but when I would get to some princely monologue - whew! Smooth sailing at last! Here I could read a few lines without consulting notes.
  • Amity
    606
    I read mostly fiction - "serious" literature, with a bit of light fare for when I am too exhausted or distraught for more demanding stuff. I rarely read book-length non-fiction - I just don't value most of it enough to prioritize it over fiction. I was a bit surprised to see Amity and others referring to reading fiction almost as if it was cheating at reading. On the contrary, I have always associated "reading" with fiction books, first and foremost.SophistiCat

    Surprised at being picked out in this way. Fiction as 'cheating at reading' ?! What on earth ?
    Reading fiction is where I began. Children's Bible stories, the Parables of Jesus and Louisa M. Alcott.
    To name just a few. I read 'Black Beauty' in the bath for God's sake :roll:
    The local library meant I no longer had to read and reread the same books I received as gifts.

    However all this reading did me no good when it came to learning the subject 'English' at High School.
    It took a special, inspirational teacher to get me through...
    It takes something extra to read carefully and to extract meaning, philosophical or otherwise.
    And then to write about it.

    Hope to have set your mind at ease, SophistiCat ?
  • SophistiCat
    796
    Certainly. Sorry if I've misunderstood you.
  • Baden
    8.2k
    but for critical thinking/abstract/empathy skills, it allows you to assume the position of other people; it teaches you subjectivity, knowledge/factsGrre

    :up:

    I'm a grazer, jumping in and out of books, articles, this site, fiction, non-fiction as the mood takes me. Not very systematic but I don't feel the need for a plan—probably the most critical character-forming reading I did in my teens and early twenties. So, my (mostly ebook) library is like a buffet and me a lazy diner perpetually spying tasty nuggets to pick at before recycling them with flatulent bursts of literary exhuberance.

    Gustatory metaphors aside, reading, and reading well, achieves just the vital functions you've listed in a way that's irreplaceable through other media imho. Not that I'm confident its superiority in this respect will ever yield a deserved proportion of the media consumption market, only hopeful it won't get wholly trounced by less refined modes of leisure and learning.
  • T Clark
    3.8k
    There was one author that I did like not of the science fiction etc variety. I do not remember who but someone who knew me, was an avid reader of novels etc, suggested I read Victor Hugo. I gave it a try (The Man Who Laughs) and have since read other novels by him. I know he is a famous novelist, one English LIt graduate said to me one Victor Hugo is worth 10 F Scott Fitzgerald. I have read the Great Gatsby and thought - bla - but not Victor Hugo - he grappled with what I thought were genuine issues. I simply know they are both famous novelists. Is there something about Victor Hugo that sets him apart?Bill Hobba

    Unfortunately, the only Hugo I've read is "Les Miserables," which I read in French in high school. The only Fitzgerald I've read is "The Great Gatsby," which didn't move me. I also read that as a high school assignment, in English this time. Since then, I've read many famous books. Some I liked, some I didn't. A few I loved. One, "Heart of Darkness," I've read four or five times in addition to listening to an audiobook.

    Let me put in a plug now for LibriVox, which has free downloadable audiobooks of writing in the public domain read by volunteers, some of whom are wonderful. I also listened to William James' "Pragmatism," which I highly recommend.

    As for science fiction, I have read hundreds of books over the years. It's the first thing I started reading for pleasure when I was ten or 11. The first I really remember is "A Wrinkle in Time." I think the one that meant the most to me was the "Foundation" trilogy. I bought "Foundation" for my son for Christmas a few years ago and took the opportunity to read it again. It definitely doesn't hold up after 55 years. Asimov was not a very good writer.

    Three rules:
    • Read what you like by authors you like.
    • Never, never read anything Russian. Actually, I really enjoyed "War and Peace."
    • If you want to read famous classics, remember, you get just as much credit for reading short books as you do for long ones. Another good reason to read "Heart of Darkness."
  • SophistiCat
    796
    Unfortunately, the only Hugo I've read is "Les Miserables," which I read in French in high school.T Clark

    That's some assignment!

    I read Notre-Dame de Paris as a teen, and even at that age his overwrought romanticism turned me off. The shear bulk of Les Miserables scares me. Not that I am intimidated by big books in general, but five volumes of that kind of prose...
  • Amity
    606
    Unfortunately, the only Hugo I've read is "Les Miserables," which I read in French in high school.
    — T Clark

    That's some assignment!
    SophistiCat

    Hah. That's nothing. Try translating prescribed Latin texts for a Higher qualification.
    https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/67252.html

    Let me put in a plug now for LibriVox, which has free downloadable audiobooks of writing in the public domain read by volunteers, some of whom are wonderful. I also listened to William James' "Pragmatism," which I highly recommend.T Clark

    Good call. You wouldn't be part of the 'wonderful', would you ?
    I think some voices are easier to listen to than others.
    And some can act the parts really well. Seamlessly.
  • T Clark
    3.8k
    Hah. That's nothing. Try translating prescribed Latin texts for a Higher qualification.Amity

    I wasn't saying that it was difficult, although it was. My point was that it was an unnatural way for me to read so my impression of Hugo's writing is suspect.
  • Amity
    606
    I wasn't saying that it was difficult, although it wasT Clark

    Yes, I know. My lingua-in-maxillam response was meant for SophistiCat who was clearly impressed. Quite rightly so.

    My point was that it was an unnatural way for me to read so my impression of Hugo's writing is suspect.T Clark

    Understood. High School Foreign Assignments. Unnatural. Yep.
  • Grre
    113
    In my opinion, I think the literary canon has some gems certainly, including Hugo (never read) and Fitzgerald (yes I actually LOVED The Great Gatsby BECAUSE of his illustrious illustrations of the era, not despite them, although I did prefer Hemmingway, Gone With the Wind (underrated as a literary classic due to its romantic subplot but ever-so deserving of being a top contender of one of my favourite literary books of all time), Poe, even Wuthering Heights and yes! Heart of Darkness too-but despite the fact all these books are powerful, memorable, complex, and beautifully orchestrated, they are hard. We read Heart of Darkness in my grade 12 english class (I was only in grade 11 at the time) and while after a few dedicated anaylsis, I finally understood its deeper meaning and beauty, 99% of my class did not, most could not even make sense of the first page. That is what I hate most about the literary canon, the fact that unless you are already a highly skilled and dedicated reader, great at abstract thought, comprehension, focus, vocabulary, and critical thinking-then yes, these books are ten times more rewarding than say, picking up a pocket novel romance erotica...but majority of people, especially children in classrooms, are not prepared for the literary master pieces coming their way, and thus becomes the gatekeeper to higher reading skills, even enjoyment and success of reading...forcing children to read things that don't make sense to them and are very very difficult to understand enough to even enjoy, well, its no surprise everyone hates high school english is it? And its no surprise then, that this prevents people from ever picking up a book, if one of the few experiences in your life with regards to reading (fiction) was so confounding negative and intimidating...especially when English teachers love to call on children with super open ended and abstract questiosn, that, if you can't understand the book you'll be just googling the answers too, and even those make you sound dumb to all the smart-ass kids in class who by chance, or their parents encouraging them ect. happen to have the sufficient skills to unearth the meat and matter of such "marvelled" literary canon.

    I was one of the smart-ass kids that made fun of the other children who couldn't pronounce the words in "Heart of Darkness" but that being said, I don't read much literary canon now, especially not in the last year, it's just too heavy for me emotionally and mentally-I have no focus or energy to dedicate to picking apart nuanced sentences written in an entirely different diction. I also now have a better understanding of why people are scared-off of English/reading, largely due to this issue presented by the canon. Teachers (rightly) believe that the literary canon contains some of the best examples of true literary greatness; something that everyone could learn and be inspired by, but what teachers don't realize is that the students, even by high school, do not have the necessary literary skills to properly analyze, comprehend, such texts, let alone the interest in doing so! It's too late at that point, and instead of meeting students needs and allowing for wider freedom in books, including graphic novels, and individually meeting their needs, these teachers seem to think its better to keep forcing forcing forcing and that somehow they'll "learn" something, when really, all anyone learns at that point, is how to use and copy off of Wikipedia without getting caught. The entire literary experience is lost out on, and these same students carry this aversion and fear of reading for the rest of their lives.

    ~Rant over~

    That being said; in no way am I implying these literary classics aren't important. They are. But they should be peppered lightly (like a strong spice), with some "cheat" literature like @Amity @SophistiCat were debating...all reading is good reading. Even 50 Shades of Grey.
    Reading fiction is where I began.
    Reading fiction is where I began too, but one must be honest and admit that various types of literature require different commitments of time, focus, energy, and comprehension. I stopped reading fiction because I had too many emotionally-laden events happening in my own life, I couldn't handle the thought of taking on anyone else's, fictional or not. I read nonfiction now because right now, that's what's important to me. Any reading stimulates the mind and improves focus and vocabulary, reading certain 'harder' literary fiction or non fiction, improves vocabulary and knowledge perhaps, in more noticeable ways than reading Twilight, but the action is still the same. Also you have to start somewhere.
  • T Clark
    3.8k
    but despite the fact all these books are powerful, memorable, complex, and beautifully orchestrated, they are hard. We read Heart of Darkness in my grade 12 english class (I was only in grade 11 at the time) and while after a few dedicated anaylsis, I finally understood its deeper meaning and beauty, 99% of my class did not, most could not even make sense of the first page. That is what I hate most about the literary canon, the fact that unless you are already a highly skilled and dedicated reader, great at abstract thought, comprehension, focus, vocabulary, and critical thinking-then yes, these books are ten times more rewarding than say, picking up a pocket novel romance erotica...but majority of people, especially children in classrooms, are not prepared for the literary master pieces coming their wayGrre

    I've never seen it this way. "Les Miserables" in French was hard, but that was a special case. I don't, and never have, read with any kind of "dedicated analysis." I don't worry about symbolism and allegory. If a book doesn't move me without a lot of regurgitation, I won't finish it unless someone makes me. I read what I read and like what I like. "Tom Sawyer" was not hard, but I never loved it. "Crime and Punishment" was terrible, awful, depressing, bleak. I tried to reread it recently but I kept laughing. It was similar when I tried to reread "The Trial." Shakespeare? Sometimes he's fun to read. I like his sonnets. Just the way the words sound and feel can be wonderful.

    Bust most of what I read is not classic. I still read a lot of science fiction and fantasy and there are lots of wonderful, meaningful, moving books in those genres - Anne Leckie's Ancillary trillogy, "Titus Groan", Lev Grossman's Magicians trilogy, "The Martian".....

    And then there's poetry, and non-fiction....
  • Grre
    113


    Most do not commonly read with "dedicated analysis" as you noted, but this is what is generally expected in english curriculums, something that is hard enough to do for the average/below average reader majority to do for 'easier' books like Twilight and something that becomes 3x as hard when forced to do it on an already difficult to comprehend book like Heart of Darkness. This turns many people away from reading before they even get the chance to learn to explore and enjoy it on their own, minus the 'dedicated analysis'. I personally, try to afford the classics/cannon the analysis they deserve when I read them that is, and that too, prevents me from reading them casually; as I always feel a weird sense of honour and trepidation just as I open the cover...it's like, am I as professional a reader as I think I am? Can I wholly appreciate this book? Probably why I haven't read War and Peace yet tbh.

    I've never liked Shakespeare. He's over-forced in english classes (ALL FOUR YEARS OF HIM) and I just think the beauty of his sonnets and his work is overshadowed by the complete misunderstanding and lack of interest. Then again, I never claimed to be a theatre buff, or even, a real literary genius. My major was philosophy, not english, for a reason.
  • T Clark
    3.8k
    Most do not commonly read with "dedicated analysis"Grre

    I was thinking about my statement and I realized that I'd left something out. I do most of my reading on Kindle and the ability to look up words and references on the fly has changed my enjoyment of reading. Many of the writers I really like use very extensive vocabularies. When I follow the links I often find myself taking a journey away from the story. When I read history or historic fiction, I can look up the kings of England and see who is related to whom and who killed whom. It's funny, I was reading a real book a few weeks ago and I found myself pushing on the page to get a definition.

    difficult to comprehend book like Heart of Darkness.Grre

    I always thought HoD was a pretty straightforward adventure story. I love it because of the moral depth, and I can imagine lots of people not liking it, but it never struck me as hard to understand.

    I personally, try to afford the classics/cannon the analysis they deserve when I read them that is, and that too, prevents me from reading them casually;Grre

    There are so many non-classic, non-canon books that I have loved and that moved me that I've never had that problem.
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