September 20, 2009

"I must have read the novel a hundred times, and could recite lengthy passages from memory, without exactly understanding everything."

Says Kenneth Anderson about "Brave New World."

I don't think I've read anything 100 times — except maybe the Sermon on the Mount and Marbury v. Madison. Have you? Do whole passages reside in your memory simply because you've read them so many times? ("It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department...") Or have you made a point of memorizing pages of text? ("Think not that I am come to destroy the law...")

Anderson, responding to my quoting of Aldous Huxley, gives us his favorite Aldous Huxley quote:
I have been told by an eminent academic critic that I am a sad symptom of the failure of an intellectual class in time of crisis. The implication being, I suppose, that the professor and his colleagues are hilarious symptoms of success. The benefactors of humanity deserve due honor and commemoration. Let us build a Pantheon for professors. It should be located among the ruins of one of the gutted cities of Europe or Japan, and over the entrance to the ossuary I would inscribe, in letters six or seven feet high, the simple words: Sacred to the memory of the world's educators. SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS, CIRCUMSPICE.
I put the link there for the Latin, which is the punchline. Punchlines in Latin, knocking educators. That in itself is funny.


Joseph N. Welch said...

How sad: more than 100 readings of the Sermon on the Mount -- and it didn't sink at all!

Paco Wové said...

Again with the obsessive stalking, AJD... er, "Joseph", or whatever your sockpuppet is these days. And here I thought your condition had improved.

Does your caseworker know you post here?

David said...

The real Joseph N. Welch was an American hero.

This one, not so much.

Bissage said...

(1) I presume to speak for all of us – all those who thought of our higher education as Vo Tech School where they teach you to make things no one can see -- when I say we bear no malice.

(2) Many years ago, I snuck a tape recorder into the movie theater. Then I took it home and played it over and over again until I had transcribed every single word of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

Had I wanted to, I could have recited the whole thing backwards, and yet, I never did, for any living soul.

Such was my love for the world, that I gave my one and only talent, that whosoever would see the movie should not be annoyed, but have good memories about it forever.

exshyster said...

i believe that the latin aphorism comes from the inscription that sir christopher wren had engraved on st.paul's cathedral in london

Dogwood said...

Had I wanted to, I could have recited the whole thing backwards, and yet, I never did, for any living soul.

In college a friend & I watched the Holy Grail so often we could and did recite the lines from memory.

People refused to watch the Holy Grail if we were in the room.

gbarto said...

Some books are like the wise old man about town who always tells the same stories, but there's a slightly different lesson each time. And some of them are like old friends - you know all their jokes, but it's still funny the way they tell them. Reading the same book hundreds of times strikes me as a bit obsessive, but there are favorite chapters from novels, scenes from plays and poems from anthologies that I've probably read hundreds of times (though not usually the whole book) because I was in a mood where I wanted something good to read more than I wanted something new to read. Maybe as much as 10% of my reading is re-reading authors ranging from Douglas Adams and Robert Heinlein to Tennyson and Lamartine to Rabelais. And don't get me started on the stuff I wind up re-reading because I remember that so-and-so said something like such-and-such and I can't remember enough to google the exact quote.

ricpic said...

Does a movie addiction count? I went back to re-see On The Waterfront about 10 times. That's a lot of times to go back and see the same flick. This was in my youth, which is the time of addictions/obsessions. Looking back on it I think it was the lostness of the Brando character that I related to. Although related to is too mild a term. "O lost and by the world spurned," or something like that a la Thomas Wolfe. Yes, lots of lostness and dreamy identifying with the lost in youth.

bearing said...

Some books are always new, no matter how many times I read them. The LOTR trilogy is one set; Watership Down has been a favorite since childhood; In This House of Bredeby Rumer Godden, a new one to me, read for the first time only three years ago and I've already read it three times. I find something fresh in these books every time.

Others l reread to revisit the exact same enjoyment I got the first time. Many of these are humor or satire: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett is an example.

Now if I would only learn to get murder mysteries out of the library instead of buying them. Once you know whodunit, there's not much point, with a few rare literary exceptions.

rhhardin said...

The Platitudes, on the other hand, are the part of the Bible useful for giving advice.

traditionalguy said...

Reciting a passage out loud makes the memory that the passage reading does not make.You might try "Leaves of Grass" a time or two.

Lem said...

I had to memorize Psalm 91 when I was a kid.

I could years w/o hearing it or reading it but if i hear the first verse it all comes back.

I remember there was some sort of a game whoever could recite it faster. We timed it.

El que abita bajo el abrigo del altisimo morara bajo la sombra del omnipotente.. verse 1

Susan said...

At age 10, I was moved by the rebels in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, who saved their books from the burners by memorizing them, awaiting the day when they could freely recite what they had learned and commit the words to paper once again. I read that chapter over and over until I realized I could recite it from memory. Over the next 20 years, I learned a chapter here and there, until I had the whole book. I still reread it at least once a year.

Two years ago, I was telling the story to my ten-year-old son while we waited for a delayed plane, when a man across the aisle smiled, and nodded, and joined me, reciting in perfect unison.

A spooky moment, but profoundly comforting. My son was quite astounded.

Bradbury is now his favorite author.

Zach said...

Brave New World has a lot of rereading value: big ideas and naughty bits.

traditionalguy said...

Susan...You seem to have participated in one of the human race's oldest social skills, which we now refer to as oral tradition passed down from teacher to student. Once in the student's memory, it cannot be stolen away.( at least it could not until the Brain Washing experiments trying to create Homo-sovieticus in the past 70 years) That is probably also the origin of Teaching students as a professional relationship.

Graham Powell said...

I don't reread, but some passages have stuck with me so well that I remember them clearly. In particular, I was in a bookstore with my wife last year and picked up a copy of Lloyd Alexander's THE HIGH KING. I could remember quite a few passages word for word despite the fact I hadn't read it in 25 years.

I wonder if stuff you read as a kid sticks with you more?

traditionalguy said...

Everybody needs to memorize some Shakespeare, especially the sonnets. But reading is near useless in have to say them out loud over and over.

former law student said...

I am surprised that no Randites have shown up. Surely they have read Atlas Shrugged countless times.

The last thing I consciously memorized was "The Part That Willie Gets," which Google records as being printed in a rural New Zealand paper, in 1916.

I now suspect that the State of Michigan ripped off Wren's epitaph when they came up with their state motto:

Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam, circumspice

former law student said...

Now if I would only learn to get murder mysteries out of the library instead of buying them.

The tyranny of the due date convinced my wife to buy second hand paperbacks, and return them for store credit at her convenience.

chickenlittle said...

'Going to the Feelies this evening, Henry?" enquired the Assistant Predestinator. 'I hear the new one at the Alhambra is first-rate. There's a love scene on a bearskin rug; they say it's marvelous. Every hair of the bear reproduced. The most amazing tactual effects...' Aldous Huxley, "Brave New World" Link

The Feelies just re-released "Crazy Rhythms" and "The Good Earth" on iTunes. Check it out.

peter hoh said...

The only literary text I've read over 100 times starts out like this:

In the great green room
there was a telephone
and a red balloon
and a picture of
the cow jumping over the moon.

blake said...

Ha to Hoh.

Got a lot of those in my head. None from childhood, neither.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

"Way out west there was this fella I wanna tell ya about. Fella by the name of Jeff Lebowski. Least that was the handle his lovin' parents gave him, but he never had much use for it himself. See, this Lebowski, he called himself The Dude. Now, "Dude"—there's a name no man would self-apply where I come from. But then there was a lot about The Dude that didn't make a whole lot of sense t'me. And a lot about where he lived, likewise. But then again, maybe that's why I found the place so darned interestin'. They call Los Angeles the "City Of Angels" but I didn't find it to be that, exactly. But I'll allow it as there are some nice folks there. 'course I ain't never been to London, and I ain't never been to France. And I ain't never seen no queen in her damned undies, neither, as the feller says. But I'll tell you what - after seeing Los Angeles, and this here story I'm about to unfold, well, I guess I seen somethin' every bit as stupefyin' as you'd seen in any of them other places. And in English, too. So I can die with a smile on my face, without feelin' like the good Lord gypped me. Now, this here story I'm about to unfold took place in the early '90s—just about the time of our conflict with Sa-damn and the Eye-raqis. I only mention it because sometimes there's a man—I won't say a hero, 'cause, what's a hero? Sometimes, there's a man—and I'm talkin' about the Dude here—the Dude from Los Angeles. Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's the Dude. The Dude, from Los Angeles. And even if he's a lazy man—and the Dude was most certainly that, quite possibly the laziest in all of Los Angeles County, which would place him high in the runnin' for laziest worldwide. Sometimes there's a man. Sometimes, there's a man. Well, I lost my train of thought here. But, aw, hell. I've done introduced it enough."

wv: donse

We can donse.
We can donse.
Everybody look at your ponse.

sonicfrog said...

Three books, one series:

Chapterhouse Dune
Heretics of Dune

I've read each at least ten times over twenty years. I don't know why you would read a piece of fiction more than once or twice really. I mean, I already know how things are going to turn out. These books just speak to me. It's like visiting old friends or something.