A snooty snob who enjoys the tawdry

I opened my old college textbook The Literature of England at random yesterday morning and found “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem composed in his garden under a lime tree while his visiting friends took a walk in the nearby countryside. He had to stay behind, having been sidelined when his wife accidentally spilled boiling milk on his foot. (Ow-ow-ow!)

Before that, I took a brief stab at “Troilus and Criseyde,” and what a surprise, 45-plus years of not reading Middle English has rendered Chaucer’s brilliant quasi-epic poem essentially unreadable to me. I do know that reading it was one of the surprise delights of my education, but I would need to be re-educated to re-experience the joy — although perhaps that would be a more worthwhile venture than the three episodes of The Blacklist that I viewed the night before.

(Somewhere in the last few days, I read a reference that a society constantly exposed to tawdry crap aimed at the lowest common denominator becomes tawdry and low and full of crap. It was written more elegantly than that, but it was a good point. There are delights in the old stuff more subtle than a gun to the face.)

I don’t mean to be a snooty snob, but I do like a turn of phrase. Discovering Coleridge’s poem was another reminder of the thousands of undiscovered treasures waiting within reach on the shelves in this little room. OK, many of them I have indeed discovered and decided to save (Bradbury, Doc Savage, Hawthorne), but so many pages are as yet untapped, and the old treasures are fun to revisit.

Notice when I reach for examples, I pick Hawthorne (everyone knows he’s a classic, although he’s not necessarily many people’s “favorite” classic author), Bradbury (becoming a classic but not considered so until well into his career), and Doc Savage (not “literature”).

I do seem to have a unique perspective on what constitutes good reading. I enjoy enjoying stuff that’s off the beaten track. I like that about being in this skin.

Published by WarrenBluhm

Wordsmith and podcaster, Warren is a reporter, editor and storyteller who lives near the shores of Green Bay with his wife, two golden retrievers, and an insistent cat. Author of Gladness is Infectious, 24 flashes, How to Play a Blue Guitar, A Bridge at Crossroads, Refuse to be Afraid, and A Scream of Consciousness.

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