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The mushroom people

“A book may have been published, but it is not available if I don’t know it exists; if it costs more than I can afford; if it is locked up and out of reach; if I am illiterate, or ashamed of bookishness, or teased or told I am uppity if I want to rise above my fellows.  Entire societies are devoted to keeping their citizens ignorant, unskilled, unschooled, fanatical in support of their own stupidity and of the forces which would switch off every intellectual light.” — William H. Gass, “The Shears of the Censor,” from Tests of Time

Published inLit & CritWilliam H. Gass

6 Comments

  1. I mentioned a favorite book to a coworker the other day, and his exact words were: Do books even exist anymore? Books do not factor into his life. He doesn’t see them, doesn’t seek them out. They’re a foreign concept to him.

    I got the feeling I had become quaint.

    • One of the hardest things for me to wrap my mind around is how many people don’t know books, don’t know the riches they contain, and don’t care to. And not only that, are threatened by them and by those of us to whom books are not only important, but so important we seek to make them ourselves.

      When I first set to working for attorneys twenty years ago, I fancied they might be a more literate and even cosmopolitan sort, being educated in a field in which words are central. Foolish, idealistic, naive me. While I did have the good fortune for a few years of working for an attorney with whom I could trade literary and historical references and bon mots whom no one else in the office could comprehend, I found that attorneys are largely no different from anyone else. They simply have one or two additional degrees and charge more by the hour because of it.

  2. Doctors too. I think when one’s day job requires a lot of study, reading can become more of a chore than a pleasure. That I can understand, better than a person who never reads at all. My husband is one of those. He regards books with the aversion a child will show when you try to make him eat a green bean–as though it couldn’t possibly be a pleasure, and the cheese sauce is a diversionary tactic.

    • My son’s mother was a CPA–still is, for that matter–and told me when we were married that after a long day of poring over spreadsheets and analyses, the last thing she wanted to do of an evening was read. So she would watch TV. And she was a reader, who enjoyed reading, she just needed to get some rest from letters and numbers during the week.

      She and I raised a son who is an avid reader. He knew his ABC’s before he was two and says he has no memory of not being able to read.

  3. That came out badly. My husband is a really intelligent guy, and he does read. Just not books. Not even smut can tempt him!

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