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Guest Blogger: Matt Responds

February 10, 2010

 

Hey dear readers:

So, my wonderful husband Matt is my guest blogger today. You can check out his own blog at www.shermanhood.com — he blogs about life as a stay-at-home-dad during the day to Elliott. Today though, he’s blogging about books. I never thought I’d type that. Enjoy! 

 

The non-reader and the reader in high school.

 

I come not to bury Shelbi but to praise her. (That’s a literary reference. I read at least two acts of Julius Caesar my sophomore year in high school.) People may be expecting me to take umbrage with Shelbi’s last blog entry and while there are a few aspects in her last entry that I feel portrayed me in a slightly negative and unfair light for comic effect, I have always been one to applaud the use of an exaggeration when used to make a good joke. And, quite frankly, she isn’t exaggerating to an obscene degree.

I need to point out first and foremost that I am in no way proud of what I am about to share. I recognize the importance of reading. I think people should do more of it. I read like crazy as a child. I have devoured Roald Dahl’s entire children’s catalog. I plowed through at least 20 Encyclopedia Brown books even though I found him to be a bit pompous. And I am well versed in the stylings of Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary.

But that changed later in life. I would guess it started around the time that reading certain books became mandatory. That made it decidedly less fun and I couldn’t in good conscience read a book I didn’t have to read when there was one I was supposed to be reading staring me in the face. At least that’s my excuse. To overly simplify the matter there are just a lot of things that I enjoy more than reading. So, naturally I became an English major.

Here’s how that happened. My mother was an English major and an English teacher. My older brother was an English major and with him being six years older than me, I looked up to him tremendously. He took Honors English and AP English in high school and it was widely regarded in my household that those classes (along with my dad’s Advanced Biology class of course) were the hardest classes at West Linn High School. Naturally I wanted to fall in line. 

I believe that nearly everyone in this world can be divided neatly into two categories. You’re either a math person or you’re an English person. Of course someone can be bad at both or good at both but I believe that people are generally wired one of those two ways. I am, without a doubt, a math person. The problem was I hated homework. I procrastinated and would often fall a few lessons behind in math classes which was a bit of a death sentence as far as grades were concerned. In English? I could get away with working at my own pace. I could skip certain books but pay enough attention in class to hack my way through a passable essay. I could procrastinate until the night before the due date on an 8-page paper and still pull a B. 

I was a terrible English student. During my junior and senior years in high school we were assigned an estimated 30 novels and/or plays to read. Here is a list of what I completed in those two years:

Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Ethan FromeLord of the Flies (90%), A Brave New World (90%). 

That’s it. No Grapes of Wrath, no Scarlet Letter, no Emerson, no Thoreau, no Huck Finn, no Heart of Darkness. Not to mention bailing on all of the summer reading that was assigned to us. Again, I’m not proud of this. It’s just a fact. And I  pulled Bs every semester. I loved English class.

In college I started out as a Journalism major at a small school in San Diego. But I didn’t like talking to people. I just wanted to write goofy columns about my intramural basketball team. I decided I wanted to go into Creative Writing and opted to transfer to the University of Oregon. But Oregon didn’t have an official Creative Writing major and I was incredibly intimidated by the school’s vaunted Journalism program. So I did the next best thing. I took as many Creative Writing classes as possible and picked English as my major because I figured it would be the easiest major to fake my way through.

And fake I did. I wish I still had my old computer from college to fully document my career as an English major but I’m pretty sure the sheer amount of hackneyed drivel that was stored in it after two years in Eugene caused it to take its own life. And yet… decent grades. And the ratio of books I actually read to books I was assigned to read stayed pretty consistent with where it was in high school. In fact, offhandedly, I truly can not recall a single book that I finished from cover to cover in college. I’m sure there is one. I just don’t remember it. I’d like to say that all of the time I saved by not reading was spent hanging out with my hipster friends at Espresso Roma or starting up an avant garde garage band or even hitting on girls. But unfortunately I spent a lot of time in the library (for the internet not the books) and playing Yahtzee on my computer. 

And after college? I got a job. I got cable and ESPN for the first time in my life. I got a girlfriend. Now I have a wife and a son and a dog. If I didn’t read before I’m probably not going to read now. Sure, if given the choice, I prefer non-fiction books. Just like I prefer the History Channel to the SciFi channel. I admit I am an unflattering product of a generation that, for the most part, does not value books the way it should. But I do value the written word and well-crafted sentences. Enormously.

And I think what Shelbi is undertaking is terrific and admirable. There’s no way I could do it. But you know what? She couldn’t go through five straight seasons of Madden 2005 on the All Madden setting without losing a game. Game, set, match.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jill Sherman permalink
    February 10, 2010 9:34 pm

    Very fun, sweetie! You didn’t even read all of Prayer for Owen Meany when I read it along with you? Loved that book!

  2. Jessica permalink
    February 15, 2010 10:40 pm

    Matt, again… I am just shocked! I thought you didn’t talk much in Honors or AP because you were a shy wallflower who preferred to keep to himself, not because you hadn’t. read. a. single. book! How did you do this? How did you write the papers we had to do on the summer reading? I’m just dumbfounded you were never discovered. I only learned this skill of faking English classes during my last semester in college. I even read all the novels assigned to me while studying abroad in London… when I was drinking myself retarded (literally, I could not form proper sentences by the end of the semester). (Okay, almost all of them. I couldn’t tolerate “Orlando” by Virigina Woolf, even with a few pints)

    I think you just need to get back to reading fun books, like when you were a kid. I recommend Percy Jackson and the Olympians (series of 5) and the Mysterious Benedict Society (3 books so far in the series). Literary schmiterary (Schmidt, ha!).. .read something fun even if it’s meant for elementary school aged kids. That’s how I get back to loving books when after a long day (week/month/year) of dealing with Kindle books and amazingly arrogant publishers, I never want to see another book ever again… on print or an eInk screen.

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