Thursday, October 9, 2008

On Not Reading the OED

Now I'll admit that reading the Oxford English Dictionary is not something I have on my agenda in the near or even distant future. Nor do I have plans to read the Abridged New American Dictionary or even parts of Roget's Thesaurus this weekend, but I cannot claim to be entirely unsympathetic to Ammon Shea, for I too, share a peculiar fascination with and even, yes, love for words.

I really do love a good word. I really love the fact that each word exists because it does something that no other word can. Even though many words may indeed serve multiple purposes, there is no doubt that each word is crafted to serve meaning itself, and our desire to transfer it from and to one another across time and space. I particularly love words that have layers of meaning or can be used many ways, but that doesn't deter my affection for longer and less used expressions. I love it all.

And yet, I am not a reader. It's not the reading of words that I love so much, but the writing of them. A friend recently told me that they had not time to read all the memoirs of all the people who are writing blogs these days, and I certainly concur. I write, but I do not read. Oh certainly, I read the news, and the news of the Weired most of all, but that doesn't count. I've been fortunately obliged to revisit some classic American poetry of late, but that doesn't mean I've been reading Frost, or Stevens or Eliot so much as I've stumbled on them in my path. Reading ragged letters in the streetlight doesn't make me exactly literate.

But I am, of course, also arrogant enough to believe that I really haven't time for both reading and writing. Simply knowing that I should read more doesn't make it so, nor is it any more likely as I grow older. I'm not pleased with this sort of calcification, and know I have to do something to correct it, sooner rather than later.

However, as a UT employee, I can take advantage of program here called the Staff Educational Benefit. This program allows all UT staff members to take one class per semester free of charge. So, to that end, I've decided that this spring, I will take a literature class that will again force me to read, if not freely, at least for my own benefit. Of course, I could also take a philosophy class or even a physics class. So, the question remains, what to read?

What say you, readers of this journal?

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