Reading: What It’s Teaching Me

When you’re in grad school, especially in English lit, you do a lot of reading.   It may sound odd to some that sitting and reading can be a passion, but for me it has been — fully as much as the passion football fans feel this time of year for the next gluttonous ingestion of yet another bowl game. (I do watch football.) Yesterday evening I passed yet another three hours reading a favorite author by the name of Louise Penny.  She’s written eleven novels, mysteries that reach literary realms.  I have two or three to go.  Last night it occurred to me that my passion is no less sedentary than the average bowl watcher.  Only the players on the field and the characters in the novel are getting any exercise. In both cases the experience is totally vicarious for the bystander.

I admit that bellying up to the telly is far more social than watching football unless you are a single viewer which I was.  I had no one to share the murder of a hermit with, nor the behavior of two gay bistro owners. And yet book and game served up relatively equal amounts of suspense and human error. An artist’s moral dilemma was deeper and more affecting than the quarterback’s.  For one thing, the artist had a moral dilemma.  In both a novel and a football game I always stay to the end.  Such staying seems to bear a lesson for life. The novel holds more complexity it seems to me.  The novel leaves more to think about than the game, but then  I may simply be favoring a personal preference.

In graduate English studies you read the best that has been thought and said over time by many voices, the voices of wisdom.  A doctoral student reads very little contemporary literature.  Immersion in good, current writing is quite refreshing after years in the museum of literature. One reads contemporary for pleasure, exposure, diversion, perhaps relevance to the times. Penny’s world of Three Pines, Quebec, cannot be found on any map.  And the level of mystery far exceeds what could be found in a real village of similar size.  And there are not in the real world many towns with a crazy poet trailed by a pet duck wearing a raincoat.  All the characters are exquisitely drawn as are their crimes, misdemeanors and foibles.  The reader loves them and feels their emotions in ways impossible of football players.

Louise Penny’s The Brutal Telling is a wilderness, real and figurative and there’s no concession stand in sight.  David Milliken

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Does fascism come from the right or the left? are the socialists and who are the fascists?  The answer is rather mixed.  The Nazis were “national socialists” and then we had the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  It was all a rather mixed bag of leftists and rightists who came together in authoritarianism/totalitarianism.  Here’ are some answers.

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Tramp, Tramp, Tramp the Trump Beats Go On

Aren’t you tired of it all: the waving hand, the petulant demeanor, the mindless cant, the absurdity, the embarrassment and on it goes?  I try to imagine a President Trump seated around a table with Cameron of Britain, King Abdullah of Jordan, Merkel of Germany and I am embarrassed for my country. I cannot conceive of Trump with a finger poised and hovering over the big red button.

In a President I want thoughtfulness, patience, a cool mind — maybe even a modicum of warmth.  Not in this guy.  I want a real life manifestation of Michael Douglas as the American President. I want courage over foolhardiness. Above all, I do not want a cynic in the White House.

Tired, oh so tired of this quadrennial spectacle.

David Milliken

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