Atonement

I’ve got a secret I’ve been meaning to get out for a while.  I told myself it was only once and I wouldn’t do it again, but over the past few months, I have constantly found myself in the same place.  Even though I feel like a horrible, sorry excuse of a human being afterwards, it never changes.

So, I’m coming clean:

I murder books.

It’s a crime punishable by death in the bookworm community, but I can’t help it.  I can’t help the fact that my fingers unconsciously steal across pages and sift through beginning and middle until they find their target: the end.  I can’t restrain my eyes, which, with expert precision, scan the pages, robbing the book of all its value and viciously assaulting it.  By the time I realize what I’m doing, it’s too late: their job is done.  I’m left  with a feeling of despair and a dying book in my arms.  I feel guilty, but guilt never stops me the next time I’m reading a book.  I read with an intent to kill.

Samuel Coleridge, in his classification of readers, has graciously left out my kind of reading: the fifth class, murderers, who read the ending before the rest of the book, thereby gouging out the innards of the book and rendering the rest of the book nearly meaningless.  Whether he knew about murderers and intentionally left us out or was oblivious to our presence, I don’t know, but I do know that he said this:

“Readers may be divided into four classes:
1) Sponges, who absorb all that they read and return it in nearly the same state, only a little dirtied.
2) Sand-glasses, who retain nothing and are content to get through a book for the sake of getting through the time.
3) Strain-bags, who retain merely the dregs of what they read.
4) Mogul diamonds, equally rare and valuable, who profit by what they read, and enable others to profit by it also”.
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My take on Samuel Coleridge’s words.

I have been each type of reader at least once in my life.  When I was first taking my literary baby steps, I started out as a sponge and sand-glass: I may not have understood what I read, but I sure liked reading.  Summarizing a plot was easy, but when I entered school, I learned to read a bit differently.  This mode of reading wasn’t focused on what happened in the books, but what the happenings meant and what the author meant to say.  Those were the glory days: in elementary and middle school, reading meant complete immersion, which meant sitting in one place for hours, not budging, fully engrossed.  Not only did I read books in school, but I read books outside of school as well.  However, my existence as a mogul diamond came to a halt when high school started.  Today, I am but a strainbag.  I almost never read outside of school work and I barely remember what I read.  I know that the classics are wonderful books, but I haven’t given any book its time of day for the past three years.

Thankfully,  life has been getting better: I’ve gotten used to the pace at which high school moves.  Instead of sprinting from test to test, I’m learning to run an academic marathon.  That means no all-nighters (well maybe a few), no crashing and burning, and no binging and purging on information.  All of this training has to stick and be built slowly.  Perhaps, time will return to my side somewhere in the course of the marathon, and along with time, opportunities to repair my relationship with reading.  Books, unlike people, can be revived.

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Atonement

One thought on “Atonement

  1. Mr. Z says:

    Maggie,

    This is a great response! The only thing I think you’re missing is a succinct definition (a la Coleridge) of what a murderer of books is. How do you differ from the sand-glasses? Thanks for posting.

    Like

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