Literature


" … hardly the high-brow notable kind."

I feel reasonably confident that I am not a literary snob, though I do maintain certain rather uncertain standards. I have not read many of the classics, and those I have perused, I found dated and stiff. Not that I could't appreciate the skill it must have taken to create them, more that the skill had not seemed to have aged that well. Shakespeare could certainly jot down the decent sonnet, but his iams seem labored and lost on me, the rhythm often obscuring the purpose. I've never really cared for riddles and confounding word play. I appreciate flowery speech but tire of the unending garden. I despise writing that leaves me feeling ignorant and uninformed, which might leave me snob enough, unwilling to bend over to meet an uncompromising author halfway.

I grew up in a home with plenty of reading material.
My dad read two or three books each week, or so it seemed. He subscribed to Reader's Digest condensed books and carted home piles of mislaid magazines from the post office where he worked. A few classics inhabited the bookshelves, too. Les Miserables, which I failed to read through to the end more times than I care to recount, was there, a collection of Shakespeare plays, and a few other moldy-smelling old tomes. I preferred library books which never smelled moldy.

I didn't really discover literature until I became an adult. I found the first few books interminably long, a real intrusion, but eventually learned to stick with and through them. I read slowly, though I remember taking a class which purported to be able to turn me into a speedy reader. The speed seemed at odds with the purpose I found in reading, so I admit that I resisted most of the instruction by reading even slower as a result, perhaps to prove to myself that the training hadn't taken. There's a snobbishness in that stance, too.

I eventually found a place for me within the vast sea of the literary world. I collected John O'Hara novels, and Eliot Pauls. I loved reading E. B. White's essays collected from old New Yorkers, and finally subscribed to The New Yorker, a necessary commitment to decent writing and to, by then, hopefully becoming a decent writer myself. I enjoyed Updike but never collected him. I rather steadfastly avoided reading the more popular authors, a NYTs Best Seller remains clear tell that I should consider something, anything else. Reading through the NYT's One Hundred Notable Books of the Year, I found little even interesting there. I'm uncertain who decides what constitutes Notable, but I felt uncompelled by any of the descriptions intended to attract me.

I think writing must be a miserable way to pass time. I appreciate without feeling any sense of envy how a fiction writer can consistently concoct entire worlds and suck me in. O'Hara could always transport me back into the fading aristocracy of the nineteen twenties. White could set me down into the middle of Mid-century Manhattan as if it were suddenly familiar to me, but I know I do not carry that mutation of that particular gene. I'm a reader of literature, not a writer of it. My tastes trend toward the lowbrow crime novel, though I'm confident that I'll never know the difference between a Glock and a Sig. I enjoy the twisty turns taking me into places I'm unlikely to ever otherwise visit. I won't read horror novels or Sci-Fi, neither of which seem believable or entertaining to me. I like a decent human story where fallibility encounters some potentially thwarting force before sidestepping its threat. I like to feel breathless at the end.

I'm more of a chronicler, someone simply observing. I don't take on the disturbing dilemmas of the day, but each day by each day. I'm surprised by the variety even my humble life provokes. I'm not jetting off to world capitals or working clandestinely to somehow save the world. I'm not embarked on some Hero's Journey, not even to save myself. I figure, without self pity, that we're all doomed but not unblessed, that this place remains capable of generating a few ounces of appreciation and wonder out of even someone like me. Excuse me, please, if I feel compelled to share my observations, as deeply personal and perhaps as narcissistic as they might seem. I come to know this world by better knowing myself, and though I still seem mostly a mystery to myself, my discoveries might still constitute a literature of sorts, though hardly the high-brow notable kind.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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