Saturday, March 16, 2019

Among the things you can do other than drink this weekend is begin to read or reread Joyce's Ulysses. I don't sit at the bars anymore, but I look in as I walk by. There are maybe eight Irish bars within two blocks of my apartment. The best of them is Molly's where they'll serve pints to a packed house all day tomorrow in glasses not plastic cups. My mother died 44 years ago today.

Friday, March 15, 2019

'The more I read, the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers. I could regard them in no other light than a band of successful robbers, who had left their homes, and gone to Africa, and stolen us from our homes, and in a strange land reduced us to slavery. I loathed them as being the meanest as well as the most wicked of men. As I read and contemplated the subject, behold! that very discontentment which Master Hugh had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soul to unutterable anguish. As I writhed under it, I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy. it opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. in moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity. I have often wished myself a beast. I preferred the condition of the meanest reptile to my own. Any thing, no matter what, to get rid of thinking! It was this everlasting thinking of my condition that tormented me. There was no getting rid of it. It was pressed upon me by every object within sight or hearing, animate or inanimate. The silver trump of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness. Freedom now appeared, to disappear no more forever. It was heard in every sound and seen in every thing. It was ever present to torment me with a sense of my wretched condition. I saw nothing without seeing it, I heard nothing without hearing it, and felt nothing without feeling it. It looked from every star, it smiled in every calm, breathed in every wind, and moved in every storm.'
― Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Thursday, March 14, 2019

I've mentioned this guy before. He intrigues me because he's the mayor of South Bend, Indiana where I went to college. The boyish-looking mayor went to Harvard and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. You don't think of that when you think of South Bend. You don't think they'd have a gay mayor either. But they do, and he's running for president. He's the youngest of the Democratic contenders. He's 37. He served in Afghanistan. He's been on all the shows. Today I saw this book of his in the big Barnes & Noble on Union Square. There are so many new books about politics and our culture in stores now. It's a heated time. I was thinking about books a while ago. When you read, you sometimes take notes or make a note in the margin. Even if you're reading a novel, you might do that. With TV, no.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A few of the books on hold in my local library on 23rd Street. I go to the library every day but Sunday when it's disappointingly not open. The ceilings are wonderfully high. The lights are brighter than my dimly-lit apartment. Those big windows you see look out on a busy street. It makes a stimulating combination of quiet inside and busyness out. That's why people like living in big cities, that combination. But the libraries here close at dinnertime. It's way too early. People go home and it's not quiet there. TV is on. Almost always. Almost all the time. Noise outside, noise inside. It'd be better here if the libraries were open at night. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Three guys across from me in the neighborhood coffee shop. You don't see many people with books there. I'm usually the only one with a newspaper. If there's anyone else with one, they're my age. Young Asian women read what appear to be med school admission test study guides. You'll see now and then someone writing in a Moleskine. But mostly it's MacBooks. There's no wifi, so they get a connection through their phones. I enjoy observing them.

Monday, March 11, 2019

From The Guardian:

Iwas very lucky to have been brought up in a household where my older brother and my father read out loud to me as a teenager. It was a form of conversation or entertainment. They were “hey-listen-to-this” moments, taking in Dickens, Hardy, Catch-22, Catcher in the Rye, the Molesworth books, newspapers, magazines, Konrad Lorenz’s science books, Alan Moorehead’s accounts of exploration and any random passage from their studies. Come to think of it, my father didn’t stop! In his 70s, when I was in my 40s, my father still read me the stories he wrote about his childhood. His intonation, his pronunciation of Yiddish, our cackling at his jokes live on.
This week, it was suggested that in order to foster a love of reading, parents and teachers should continue reading aloud to children well into their teen years. To get a handle on why doing so is important, we have to take a step back and look at something that is right in front of our noses but not always obvious.
The way we speak is very different from the way we write – especially from the way we write continuous prose. When we speak, we hesitate, we contract phrases (as with “wouldn’t’ve”), we repeat ourselves, we often leave gaps for others to fill in. Or we might just tail off. We use intonation and gesture to indicate or colour meaning. We use more pronouns than we do when we write, because we can specify who we are referring to with gesture and tone. We use a lot of ums and errs and “you knows” to give ourselves time to think or to hold a listener’s attention. And we avoid front-loading sentences with phrases and clauses that delay getting to the main point. 
Continuous prose flows without hesitation. Sentences close. We can front-load, refer backwards and forwards, organise “points” in an argument. We can avoid repetition, and use syntax and vocabulary for emphasis colour. “Who”, “which”, “that” and “where” clauses get more use in writing than in speech. 

What follows from this is that in order to understand and be able to write continuous prose, we need to spend a good deal of time immersed in it. One way to do this is to hear it read out loud. This gets round that moment of resistance when we see a slab of writing on the page. I read continuous prose every single day of my life but if you tell me that I’ve got to read 10 pages of something, study it closely in order to extract some information (a common task in schools), I have at the very least the feeling: can I put it off till tomorrow? I’ve seen my own children thinking up every possible ruse to avoid it, too.
Some books are better (and more fun) for reading out loud than others. One of the reasons we invented continuous prose was to lay out an argument, piling points on top of each other, weighing one view against another, even to invite the reader to look back at something earlier or later in a book. It can be tough going listening to this kind of writing if you don’t have the book in front of you. Ideal for reading out loud are things such as short stories, poems, plays, modern novels, journalism, texts of speeches, biography, and narratives connected with scientific discovery, history, geography and the arts. 
Ideally, any teenager being read to would have the text in front of them, so that we can stop and talk about things as we go along, referring back to what’s just been read. This means we make bridges, from the written to the oral and back again.