Reading Books and Learning from them

“Let his conscience and virtue be eminently manifest in his speaking, and have only reason for their guide. Make him understand, that to acknowledge the error he shall discover in his own argument, though only found out by himself, is an effect of judgment and sincerity, which are the principal things he is to seek after; that obstinacy and contention are common qualities, most appearing in mean souls; that to revise and correct himself, to forsake an unjust argument in the height and heat of dispute, are rare, great, and philosophical qualities.”

I’ve been reading a lot recently, however very little of it has been concerned with my assigned reading. It would be a shame to read through Montaigne too quickly, because it is brimming with good advice that is disguised by complex sentence structures. When he says that judgment and sincerity are the principal things to seek after and that obstinacy and contention are common qualities appearing in mean souls, the truth seems so apparent that the words are hardly even his, but rather a glimpse of truth that he has gently laid hold of and obligingly shared with us. What he says is something that I have always known but often overlook in the din of life.

As I said, I’ve been reading a lot recently. One of the books was a fantasy book that was about a character who has an intuitive and mystical understanding of semantics and aesthetics. He is thirsty for knowledge and tireless in his pursuit of it. It was very engrossing—the sort of storytelling that makes you believe that it is in fact you who possess this amazing intuition and thirst. During and after reading it, how can you not feel your intellectual curiosity, in whatever  state of dormancy or activity it finds itself, stoked and invigorated anew by your immersion in The Name of the Wind and its sequel The Wise Man’s Fear ?

Having finished The Wise Man’s Fear and thirsty for more reading—finding it bizarre to not spend four or five hours a day reading—I consulted my favorite book recommender, who is always several steps ahead of me and knows just what to recommend. Acting on her recommendation, I read The Marriage Plot for several hours yesterday afternoon. I looked down and it was full daylight; when next I looked up I was sitting in a pitch-black room. I read 17 percent of it all in one go before I even realized what I was doing. (Thanks to Kindle we can now speak with an almost absurd amount of specificity about the state of our reading.) This book concerns itself with college life in the 80’s and often makes me laugh aloud to myself with its dead-pan matter-of-factness. “On the low-slung couch two Sigma Chi members were watching TV. At Madeleine’s appearance, they stirred, rising out of the gloom like openmouthed carp.”

Plus in addition to reading I’ve been celebrating the holiday season all this week. I’ve been teaching the French children how to sing The Twelve Days of Christmas (and hopefully also a little bit about intonation, because they need it). One of the teachers asked me what I had planned for the kids (one of the rare times this has happened, so thankfully I actually did have a plan) and she thought the song sounded like a great idea. She sat in on the class and learned the song too. The cafeterias at the respective schools each made a Christmas meal that was satisfyingly large. Isabelle, herself, made a repas de Noël for me and three of her (and my, dare I hope?) teacher friends. One of the schools had a Christmas party that I went to and had fun at. I’ve been slowly but surely earning the respect and friendship of the teachers as they learn that my French is proficient enough for them to get to know me—that there isn’t really a language barrier, just a large crack in the sidewalk that is easily stepped around or over.

Jimmy, over and out.

4 thoughts on “Reading Books and Learning from them

  1. Kyle says:

    I appreciate Montaigne’s restricted use of little black dots.

    That and the fact that you’re awake, and wrote this in the morning, of the next day, that I am still in.

  2. jamesrnelson says:

    HAHA. Doesn’t time just blow your mind every time you think about it?!

    It’s true; Montaigne uses periods very sparingly. Some might call his sparing usage masterful.

  3. Cody says:

    Who is this masterful recommender of books? I will need another after I finish Atlas.

  4. Patrick says:

    Did you notice that towards the end of The Wise Man’s Fear, Kvothe begins to speak in rhymes? Awesome.

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