I was talking with one of my new groups of freshpeeps a couple of days ago, reviewing the syllabus, discussing class policies, and the like. Having reached a reasonable transition point, I asked if there were any questions. A student raised his hand and asked, “Is it true that you read 10,000 words a minute?”
I said, “No. I read really quickly, but not that fast.” I explained that under average conditions, my typical pace is probably about 1300-1500 wpm, and that I can double that for about a 15-minute stretch, but that can give me a headache. Another kid asked if I remember the stuff I read. I told him that if I didn’t, I probably shouldn’t count it as reading, that reading was more than just dragging my eyeballs across a page.
Then a third hand came up. “Have you read a hundred books in your life?” I was taken aback a bit, and before I could answer, another kid said, “I bet he’s read a thousand.”
I said I had never really done a count, but that for a long time I had read at least one book daily, and in many cases, several books a day. And I segued into my lecture.
It’s useful, I think, to be reminded that for a lot of people — not stupid people, but kids who are interested and curious — the idea of having read 100 books in a lifetime requires an imaginative leap. It’s also saddening, because I think it carries a strong hint of lost opportunities and avenues unexplored. Still, it gives me hope that I may help some of them find that as-yet-undiscovered country.
A previous president here at Mondoville said a lot of things with which I disagreed, but at least one thing I like a lot. “Colleges like Harvard take eagles’ eggs and raise eagles. We take chicken eggs and raise hawks.” There’s satisfaction in that, even if odd questions are sometimes part of the gig.
The Spawn and I went to Mondoville’s basketball doubleheader yesterday. I sat in my accustomed place — two rows up, one seat to the home side of the midcourt line — and the Spawn sat across the gym in the bleachers that make up our student section. She’s been concerned about meeting people and making friends as a new student, and because we got there a half-hour before the first game, she sat alone for a few minutes, as other kids hadn’t trickled in. The Spawn is sometimes rather introverted, and from my own experience, I know it can be hard to know what to say to new people. I’ll admit I was a little worried.
After a bit, however, she approached a couple of girls and a guy in some nearby seats, and wound up sitting with them, chatting with them during the game, and developing acquaintances. During slack moments in the games, I’d look across the court — she seemed to have a good time.
After we got home, I asked her what she had said to the kids when she first walked over to them.
She said, “I told them, ‘I’m a transfer, but I don’t want to look like a friendless loser. Can I sit with you guys?'”
Well played, Spawn. Well played. And yes, she’s talking about going to next weekend’s games as well.
One of the Spawn’s classes this term is a history course dealing with genocide. I mentioned that I have a book that looks at the 100 worst mass slaughters, and that it might prove useful at some point. A little later, I noticed that the book has been reissued in paperback under a new, more academic-sounding title. Still, I find a certain charm in the idea that my daughter may submit a paper that uses The Great Big Book of Horrible Things as a source.
Although we’re in our 13th year living in the Greater Mondoville Area, I still haven’t fully acclimated. In particular, I’m still amused by what passes for cold snaps down here. A couple of days this week, I’ve gone out to find frost on the windshield of the van. Because we live so close to campus, I decided the time difference between walking to work and windshield scraping/driving was negligible, so I walked. Being um, better insulated than most, I didn’t wear a coat either time, and I have to admit I was tickled when I saw students dressed like extras from Howard Hughes’s favorite movie. I suppose my walking around in short sleeves on days like that enhance my eccentricity factor on campus, but I don’t mind.
And for today’s musical selection, the garage rock grandaddies, the Sonics, recently put out a new CD (a mere 50 years after terrorizing the Pacific Northwest), and toured in support. Here’s a bit from that tour — their classic stomper, “Strychnine.” It’s good for what’s ailing you. The hair might be gray, but these guys still rock.
See you soon!