Friday, June 20, 2008

In print and in "print"

My office re-entry this morning yielded a couple of items for the year-end performance review:
I'm especially happy with the latter item because it's available for all of you who've wondered what my academic work is like. (C'mon, admit it.) Since it originated as a presentation and not a journal article, it's citation-light and (I flatter myself) highly readable. The one footnote is a quotation from Nathan Rabin, for crying out loud!

There's so much text in the world and it's so overwhelmingly available (even thrust upon one unasked-for) that it's hard to remember how miraculous writing is, and how noble the calling of the writer should be considered. I tend to reconnect with that magic at lunchtime on weekdays, when I go get a Tropical Smoothie chicken habernero wrap and read whatever I'm currently reviewing.

Today it was Jamie James' nonfiction book The Snake Charmer: A Life And Death In Pursuit Of Knowledge. As I read about Joe Slowinski's fanatic love of naturalism and herpetology, culminating in a (surprisingly rare) science-related snakebite in the wilds of Burma, I frequently glance up and out the window, at the cloud-chased sky and the passing cars and the McDonald's across the street. Good writing -- illuminating, revealing, humane writing -- enchants the world.

Every time I feel like my dailyblogging, my blogs and reviews for the A.V. Club, my academic work, my administrative memos and handbooks and policies and so forth, are all Byzantine wheelspinning, far removed from anything that actually matters a damn ... I read something that lights up the world like stained glass, and I remember that language turns the chaos of experience into a cosmos that can be communicated. And that's a power not to be disparaged. Indeed, it may be the fundamental power of consciousness.

1 comment:

Emmett said...

"I read something that lights up the world like stained glass"


Do you catch yourself overeager to see the seed of adult insight in your children's childhood discovery?

My daughter is still too young to talk, but I'm already reminding myself not to smother her first idea by wanting to learn about her through it too much. My job is to fan her spark, not ask her to fan mine.

I hope my daughter and I will enjoy thinking together, but what if she doesn't share my interests? What if she's an insufferable golf tyro? What if she's one of those girls that pretends she's French?

I have to wait for her to tell me what her mind is for.

p.s. Thanks for answering my question last year about reading P&R.