Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Many waters

This slice of life I'm writing is partly about death. It starts with me thinking about coincidences in the books I've read recently. It ends with a commencement speech titled "This is Water" by author David Foster Wallace who committed suicide in 2008.

Over the past two weeks, I've read The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo and listened to audio versions of Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson and Dear Martin by Nic Stone. Each young-adult novel encouraged me to walk around in shoes different from my own, to challenge explicit biases, and to attune better to implicit ones. (If I sometimes fret about my subconscious' influence on me, I should also give it partial credit for leading me to pluck from shelves books I didn't know I wanted to read.)

These reading experiences made me realize anew how I "worship" literacy in its many forms, for the doors it can unlock. With that epiphany, my mind leaped to Foster Wallace's 2005 address at Kenyon College. So, I looked it up and paused at the part where he says, "Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship." Subjects of worship, he claims, become our "default-settings." He goes on: "They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing." I see now I've slipped into practicing teaching and reading and writing and speaking. Those are my habits, the ones that in Foster Wallace's words "will eat [me] alive." Or to streamline the borrowed metaphor: Waters that will drown me, with fleeting awareness of the influence of their confluence.


  1. Always a pleasure reading your blog, Brian. It is time to ponder what you said. I have not read Poet X yet. It is on my TBR shelf.

  2. Oh, this post gives me a lot to think about - worship and literacy! I loved all three titles you mentioned, especially Poet X!

  3. Funny how one thought leads to another through the power of writing.

  4. Can I recommend "Darius the Great is Not Okay" by Adib Khorram. It was my favorite YA novel of 2018.