A fragment of an essay found among the papers of a man who recently died, found on his desk at his apartment by his son home from college for the funeral. It was posted on his son’s blog a week after placing the urn on a shelf at the man’s home now solely occupied by his wife.
[. . .]
All good reading is re-reading, I understand, so the necessity to re-read is not the issue above. But this necessary re-reading I am talking about is more effective when a more deeply attentive and less perfunctory first reading is achieved. I am referring to the kind of reading that penetrates a text–yes, texts do have depth; some kinds of reading do not. Superficially skimming the page has never worked with great writing. Sweeping has nothing in common with reading when reading is performed organically and seriously and not how it has been fostered in our schools today. Semi-literacy has been paraded as good enough for long enough so as to leave us with the sense that what I am talking about should be avoided because it is either elitist or overly determined by white male standards of literacy which were only enforced to keep women and people of color out of mainstream control and management of society.
All great writing is multi-layered. Today, though, from among those we call literate, reading amounts to rubbing fingers over the lines on the pages. This then amounts to finding texts less complex and perhaps more politically correct in that horribly narrow minded idea that all reading must be didactic, must have “a moral to it” or teach some lesson, most likely one in line with the current dogmas about diversity, packaged for students by ad men and government men without any intention of maintaining an organic understanding of what diversity is or could be or should be. With pedagogy supporting the kind of reading skills that find most of the works in the traditional Canon difficult, or too difficult, or unnecessarily difficult, the search for lesser texts, shallower texts, is mandated.
Any of the texts chosen in classrooms through Public School are mostly two-dimensional as texts, although not all. The kind of writing that defers to the flatness of the page and the words being organized in lines, though, helps reinforce the kind of reading we have today.
So then, am I to assume, probably, that the kind of reading that gets fostered by our pedagogy is in line with the kind of writing we find in the texts that get chosen, or is it that the kind of writing in the texts that get chosen demand a kind of superficial skimming because this skimming is suited to the writing. Good readers can tell bad writing and politically correct hyper-didactic texts are often poorly written. Diversity, diversity, diversity for the sake of diversity is no more than diversion from literacy that is always higher than alphabetics, always more attentive to the needs and demands of democracy. But, so be the ways we manage our literacy today.
The kind of reading I am talking about here is also a more sensitive reading. I am making the inference that a more sensitive reader is a more sensitive human being, at least for the most part among readers, certainly for the greater impulses and mandates of organic democratic living and being, and not the control of an oligarchy of the monied and power elites allowing us to masquerade as a democracy through media managed and manipulated received ideas and popular culture diversions.
The man’s boy did not comment on the words. His son left the fragment alone. He only added his dad’s name at the end of the fragment. This is all. Nothing about what his dad meant to him; nothing about his dad’s life, no biographical data, nothing. No date, approximate or otherwise. Nothing about where the papers were found, or how, under what conditions. Just the text and the name of the author.