Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hypocrite lecteur, -mon semblable, - mon frere! Or Perhaps Not.

 Among the pleasures of passing certain aging benchmarks to your curriculum vitae is the not-so-pleasing assumption that you have the wherewithal to accomplish the outcomes of your dreams and expectations. 

As though puberty weren't enough of an existential chore o be experienced and have some sense made of it beyond what high school counsellors, gym teachers, and counsellors presented as options--one of them even suggested the balm of cold showers and some hobby involving extreme concentration--you were also forced to cope with the binary of what to take for granted and what to question.

This was not, nor is now, as easy as it may sound. You found some sense of safety in taking for granted things you'd observed, in trusting some adults, some instructors, and some of the available sources of information you found in some books and periodicals. But with your arrival at and passing of age benchmarks, there came the overwhelming sense that you'd been too generous in extending your trust.

Although not so much as a benchmark of a specific age as your discovery in a literature class of the unreliable narrator, this one discovery almost shut you down with the despair of no longer being able to trust a narrator to be telling the truth. You came to Baudelaire and T.S. Eliot at about the same time. 

When you digested the implications of "You, hypocrite lecteur, mon somblance, mon frere, the trouble began. You were in collusion with the source; you were no longer the eighteen-year-old standing in the glorious immensity of the Powell Library at UCLA, having traded two enormous, hand-rolled cigarettes to Fred Holden, at one time a worker in that library, for his applying the ADMIT TO STACKS to your registration card.

Standing in one of the subterranean levels, the ink still wet on the card, you had the sense of an entire universe becoming yours, your immediate target "Cheap Clothes and Nasty," . an essay from 1860 by Charles Kingsley. 

Find it, you did, in the process learning how to move up from a youth of the Dewey Decimal System into the sandbox of the serious reader, The Library of Congress System. Had you no such stamp on your register card, you might have had to wait upwards of an hour for one of the library pages to retrieve the work for you.

Your joy was all too short. With each of these books to which you had access, a responsibility was attached. Your days of innocence were over; your days of responsibility were at hand. You could no longer take these books for granted. You were free to read them, but with each one, you must make up your mind about their content, lest you remain hypocrite lecteur.

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