Writing about Reading

When you’re not publishing peer-reviewed articles but are writing or talking about what you read, you run the risk of seeming as if you’re bragging or trying to showcase your erudition, even if that’s not your primary goal. Of course, that’s always a secondary goal, but I don’t think it’s one that should be frowned upon. We do this in all things: One who is good at knitting knits; one who is good at singing sings. Or, to keep my examples parallel, one who LIKES to knit (or sing) knits (or sings). Doing so is self gratifying, and doing so publicly increases the likelihood that you’ll meet up with people who share your interests.

So it is with writing about what you read. I’ve been charged before with looking down my nose at people, apparently because I thought I was smarter than them. The situation this accusation emerged from was resolved (and this mention of it is not a plea for validation). It’s not that I think I’m smarter, but that I’m socially inept, clamming up often unless the particular discussion is one I can speak about intelligently. I guess I come across as a know-it-all, when really I’m just a guy who capitalizes on the conversations in which he can engage with any eloquence or more-than-common knowledge.

When I write in this blog about what I read, something else entirely is going on. In addition to being generally socially inept, my memory is fried (which probably doesn’t help social aptitude). During college, I read most of my assignments (we’re talking novels and epic poems and weighty treatises on things like the rights of man — am I inflating my erudition here?) two or three times just to keep the basic plot and general themes in my head for long enough to get through the course. And I’ve forgotten most of those just a few years later. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the reading, and it wasn’t a conscious effort to be lazy (an oxymoronic concept!). I wonder sometimes if there’s something wrong with parts of my long-term memory or whether I just never trained myself to remember things. And I don’t know how to train myself now. I’ve managed to become an old dog. So the primary purpose of my writing about my reading within this blog is to have a record of some of the impressions I formed while reading. This blog, for the time being, is my memory.

If I get a little high-fallutin’ sometimes, I hope the person or two who stops by for a quick read will forgive me. It’s hard not to try to take up the mantle of the academic when you’re excited about something you’ve read and are trying to capture it all in a quick burst before it abandons you, leaving you dejected and ashamed and feeling really like a magnificent failure.

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