The Book Meme Challenge: A book you wish more people would’ve read
This took a great deal more thought than I expected. I could say that I wished more of the general population had read, for example, Lewis; Tolkien; MacDonald; Chaucer; Dante; Virgil; Homer; the Holy Scriptures.*
But many among my more intimate acquaintances have done so, or have begun to do so, thanks to their upbringing or education or some combination thereof. And of those who are not in my close circle – what would bring them to it? What would (for example) a legal secretary who seldom reads get out of such books, since she has declared herself to have little experience with such things, nor (to all appearances) any basis in such literary traditions?
Therefore there are 2 books I will spend my wishing on: one for people who do not read, and one for people who do.
For the non-readers:
“But Terpsichore,” you will say, unless you will be more familiar and address me by my Jellicle name. “You just noted how people who do not read have no basis for understanding or enjoying the most delightful selections from your bookshelf. Why on earth do you think they would ever subject themselves to Wheelock – and why ought they consider it?”
A good question. Certainly it is unlikely that anyone would encounter Wheelock by accident. But I wish more people did, because if non-readers were to have a good, honest try at going through Wheelock – or even better, a bloody struggle for domination over Wheelock – then those non-readers would return from the field of battle, bearing on their shields strange new devices. Suddenly they would understand how sentences are assembled, the construction of paragraph, the blocks of argument. They would behold now-English words, once thought to be of a rather impenetrable vein, with new eyes, for those seized from Rome carry their pedigree with them.
These non-readers would have taken up the most helpful tool** for comprehending their own tongue, such that they would better understand how to speak aright, and henceforth be troubled less by reading convoluted prose. Not to mention the classic authors whose words they would brush against in the course of translation. All those phrases which have worked themselves into cliché would begin to take root in their native ground once more.***
Granted, Wheelock does not teach the most virile of pronunciation. But you knew that. I reckon the non-readers shall have hair enough springing up on their chests: for if nothing else, we know that suffering produces perseverance.
For those who have already given Wheelock the ol’ college (or high school, or primary school) try, I would wish that they would read
Nota bene that I myself have not read all of this, though it has been on my shelf these ten years. I wish that I had by this point. But, having read at least a portion of it, I shall try my hand at supposing what would come of more readers ruminating rapaciously on the bounty of the Bard:
Our vocabulary would perforce grow and flourish under the light of his example, as though he shared Mercury’s sphere of influence. With this profusion of symbols comes profusion of feeling, as with the Savage of Brave New World.
Were we only to quote him (as we do with a thousand other songs and stories), the allusions would strengthen the bonds between us and broaden the mind of each; recall the exchanges between Lord Peter and Superintendent Kirk in Busman’s Honeymoon.
As we examined each character, we would find ourselves to be examining the nature of man: how he ought to live, how he must die, what comes of believing prophecies and succumbing to passions. And we should grow a touch wiser, a tad subtler, as we contemplate honor, and justice, and whether self-destruction could preserve either. We would better understand what makes us to laugh, what makes us weep, and what is beautiful.
*I really do wish more people read the Holy Scriptures, although I think certain people are determined to pluck verses out with a random eye, and thus lose a good deal of meaning and value which they would have received had they taken the context with it.
**Here I am writing of non-readers who speak and read English, rather than other tongues. Possibly the same effect (on reading comprehension) could be achieved by studying Anglo-Saxon, German, or (for all I know) Greek. But it seems to me that studying Latin brings greater benefit where roots, suffixes, and abbreviations are concerned. Sometimes I think that Latin 101 would have been worth it even had I not learned anything beyond the difference between “i.e.” and “e.g.”
***I say “begin” because it is always better to meet the original phrase in the context of the original writer. But one must know Latin to have such a meeting anyway.