-a small thought about reading-

I love it when words on the page in front of me feel like they could have come from my own fingers on my keyboard. Not that I would ever refer to myself as an autodidact, (which is fancy-talk for “a self-taught person”) but I might secretly think it. No, I wouldn’t even use that word in my thoughts. It’s like the word ‘automaton.’ It sounds choppy and distant; like the name of some prehistoric creature that no one cares about anymore. But that’s completely beside the point. The point is that I like every part of this quote except for the word autodidact, but I don’t want to insult your intelligence by changing it out for you. You’re smart. You can handle antediluvian nouns.

I have read so many books…
And yet, like most autodidacts, I am never quite sure of what I have gained from them. There are days when I feel I have been able to grasp all there is to know in one single gaze, as if invisible branches suddenly spring out of nowhere, weaving together all the disparate strands of my reading – and then suddenly the meaning escapes, the essence evaporates, and no matter how often I reread the same lines, they seem to flee ever further with each subsequent reading, and I see myself as some mad old fool who thinks her stomach is full because she’s been attentively reading the menu. Apparently this combination of ability and blindness is a symptom exclusive to the autodidact. Deprived of the steady guiding hand that any good education provides, the autodidact possesses nonetheless the gift of freedom and conciseness of thought, where official discourse would put up barriers and prohibit adventure.
-Muriel Barbery
(from The Elegance of the Hedgehog)

I’m posting this for me, more than for you – but if you like it, awesome. Because on those days when it feels like what I do is pointless, it’s good to know that someone else feels the same way. And I know this is shallow of me, but the knowledge carries a little more punch when that “someone” wrote a book that (according to the cover) spent “over a year on the New York Times Bestseller List.” That’s not my great aspiration in life, but it’s something.


About ruthie.voth

Wife of one, mother of four, friend of many. Lover of details, color, good conversations, finding balance, and being honest. Passionate lover of a well-crafted sentence - even more so if it's witty. Weird blend of cynical optimist. I'm the worst kind of woman. I'm high maintenance, but I think I'm low maintenance. Somehow, people still love me. Must be grace.
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3 Responses to -a small thought about reading-

  1. joycemoyerhostetter says:

    You can listen to a great discussion of this book on The Diane Rehm Show. I heard it a few years ago and still haven’t gotten the book! http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2009-04-22/readers-review-elegance-hedgehog-muriel-%C2%A0barbery


  2. Cassie says:

    I can’t wait to read this book next after reading your blog. I love when books speak to exactly my feelings and my words. Thank you for writing this.


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