School’s out again. My 12-year-old just finished reading World War Z, a zombie novel by Max Brooks, and Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation by Jason Mattera, and has moved on to a first reading of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Last week it was a Jack London collection, including the obligatory “To Build a Fire,” and Tolstoy’s Hadji Murat. This was his last year in public school. While in seventh grade, he met no one, student or teacher, who reads when not under duress to do so. He customarily has two or three books at a time underway. The only people with whom he can talk about what he’s reading are his parents – not out of shyness or shame but out of an unwillingness to deal with blank-eyed bafflement.
“And then I made the discovery that what I liked in reading was to learn things I didn’t know.”
[The quoted passage at the top is from Guy Davenport’s interview with The Paris Review. The one at the bottom is from his essay “On Reading” in The Hunter Gracchus (1996). In the same essay he writes: “If, now, I had at my disposal as a teacher only what I learned from the formalities of education, I could not possibly be a university professor. I wouldn’t know anything. I am at least still trying. I’ve kept most of my textbooks and still read them (and am getting pretty good at botany).”]