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Pickle Me This

January 8, 2008

On reading

“I enjoyed the reading classes, and the opportunity to function as a sort of cheerleader. I liked my students, who were often so eager, bright, and enthusiastic that it took me years to notice how much trouble they had in reading a fairly simple short story. Almost simultaneously, I was struck by how little attention they had been taught to pay to language, to the actual words and sentences that a writer had used. Instead, they had been encouraged to form strong, critical and often negative opinions of geniuses who had been read with delight for centuries before they were born. They had been instructed to prosecute or defend these authors, as if in a court of law, on charges having to do with the writers’ origins, their racial, cultural and class backgrounds. They had been encouraged to rewrite the classics into the more acceptable forms that the author might have discovered had they only shared their young critics’ level of insight, tolerance, and awareness.

No wonder my students found it so stressful to read! And possibly because of the harsh judgments they felt required to make about fictional characters and their creators, they didn’t seem to like reading, which also made me worry for them, and wonder why they wanted to become writers. I asked myself how they planned to learn to write, since I had always thought that others learned, as I had, from reading.” — Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer

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