Monday, May 23, 2011

`Other Such Obsolete Stuff''

Several students, mostly girls, seem always to be reading or at least carrying books, whether at lunch, in the halls or on the playground. I watched one girl, with her book held hymnal-fashion in front of her face, walk into a wall and correct her course, apparently without losing her place in the text. Another is a Pakistani-American fourth-grader already of bookish, even scholarly bent. Three nights a week she looks forward to studying Arabic, and has written script for me in the sand on the athletic field. She’s on her third rotation through the Harry Potter books and last week showed up at school with a white-on-black button pinned to her vest:


Simple and eloquent, a slogan I can endorse, and a delightful vision of Paradise: Quiet people reading books they enjoy. The fourth-grader reminds me of the brief banquet speech Isaac Bashevis Singer gave on Dec. 10, 1978, two days after receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature. Singer lauds his first language, Yiddish, and gives ten explanations for writing books for children. All are admirable; the final four, genius:

“They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff. Number 8) They love interesting stories, not commentary, guides, or footnotes. Number 9) When a book is boring, they yawn openly, without any shame or fear of authority. Number 10) They don't expect their beloved writer to redeem humanity. Young as they are, they know that it is not in his power. Only the adults have such childish illusions.”

1 comment:

Shelley said...

Great quote. But maybe in the day of tweeting and texting, they yawn a little too soon?