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HTR&W Challenge: Prologue – Why Read?

HTRandWI finally got started on the HTR&W Challenge I mentioned in my Weekly Geeks #9 post a couple weeks ago. I got Bloom’s book at Boarders in the middle of last week, but put off reading it over the 4th of July because I just didn’t feel like I could focus. However, I managed to start into the prologue today, which was an accomplishment considering how tired I am from the weekend!

The piece of the prologue that grabbed me most was the formula Bloom suggests for how to read:

Find what comes near to you that can be put to the use of weighing and considering, and that addresses you as though you share the one nature, free of time’s tyranny (22).

I think I grabbed onto this idea in part because it confirms what I already think about when I read. Whenever I come to a new book or idea, I tend to see it in a way that helps illuminate some part of my life — I read and gain lessons from fiction and nonfiction about the ways that I can live my life. However, I don’t think I always put those lessons into practice as well as I should; rather than absorb them and try to live life differently, I think I enjoy the lessons but just go back to the way I used to be.

into the wildA good example I can think of for this is my reading of Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. One of the main themes I see in the book (although I’m not quite done yet), is the idea that being independent can often lead to being foolhardy, and some of the best experiences in life are those that you can experience with others — the book comes down as a rejection of the prevalent idea of rugged individualism. This challenges me because I have just started my own quest for independence. I’m moving away from my family and friends this fall to go to graduate school, and decided I wanted to move away because I needed to be more independent. Into the Wild is making me question some of my reasoning, but I’m not sure if it will change my behavior. If I were reading as Bloom suggests, I think the book will inspire me to keep close contact with those I’m leaving, as well as learn to admit when I need help.

Another part of Bloom’s discussion I thought was interesting was his blatant rejection of the way we are taught to read in a university setting. He blames the university for making reading tied to an ideology, with academic speak and agendas overshadowing the individual lessons we can take from reading. In some ways, it then becomes ironic that I’m trying to analyze Bloom, or plan to analyze the texts Bloom is discussing because that might be the last thing he wants us to do. I think my challenge, particularly as I head to school in the fall, will be to approach the texts not as literature to be taken apart or read support my particular ideology, but as pieces of art and writing to enjoy. I’m still not sure I understand exactly what Bloom means throughout the prologue, but I’m hopeful that as I continue to read these overarching arguments will become more clear.

I think the last few sentences of the prologue are particularly lovely:

There is a reader’s Sublime, and it seems the only secular transcendence we can ever attain, except for the even more precarious transcendance we call “falling in love.” I urge you to find what truly comes near to you, that can be used for weighing and for considering. Read deeply, not to believe, not to accept, not to contradict, but to learn to share in that one nature that writes and reads (29).

It’s been a long time since I felt myself becoming lost in a book, so in many ways I hope this attempt to reconsider reading will help attain the Sublime Bloom so eloquently writes about.

Other’s Thoughts: Rebecca Reads

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rebecca Reid July 8, 2008, 4:52 am

    I found it did take two or three readings to get all of Bloom’s ideas about readings. But I love how we all read and learn different things from it.

    I do think he’s talking mainly about reading fiction, not so much text books. What do you think?

    I love what you say about being “lost in a book” because that’s what I’m looking for sometimes too!

  • Kim July 8, 2008, 5:30 pm

    Rebecca: I think he’s mainly talking about fiction also, but I think you can still get the idea of “cant” and academic discourse when reading fiction. One example I can think of that Bloom sort of points out is is grouping certain fiction authors as “feminist” or “multicultural” instead of trying to read the books for what they are. Especially when reading fiction for class, I think it’s easy to get pulled into academic analysis even of fiction. You’re right, I don’t think this would work for textbooks so much 🙂

  • Rebecca Reid July 10, 2008, 10:15 am

    Yes, I completely understand: It really reminded me of how all the teachers *told* me to read things with specific agenda in mind. (I studied English)

    In some respects, though, I think I *needed* that guidance in the beginning. We had a entire class on different ways to approach literature: historicist, feminist, etc. It was an intro level class. Maybe the problem was later classes when we *still* were told what to look for?

    But I guess his point is that we shouldn’t be staying in college when we read overall….

  • Kim July 10, 2008, 5:38 pm

    I think that’s the biggest thing — there are other ways to read than the way colleges train us to think about books, and the way we’re taught to read doesn’t mesh with the supposed goal of getting lost in a book and its characters.

    I don’t want to forget the ways I’ve learned to analyze literature while in school, but I am disappointed that learning to dissect literature has taken away some of the joy of it. That must be another thing Bloom is pointing to.