In high school I was a poor student. I didn’t turn in homework on time and I didn’t have passion for anything academic. I liked wood shop quite a lot, took ceramics because I wanted a decent grade for minimal cognitive effort, and took all the humanities courses because the teacher was fun and historical factoids are always interesting. I avoided all the math and English courses that were not required for graduation. I did put a lot of effort into things I cared about like Led Zeppelin albums, Pearl Jam bootlegs, and guitar tablature. Activities that were forced on me or that I was asked to work on received minimal attention from me.

That strategy, not surprisingly, has not borne long term fruit for me. Math in college was a struggle and had me starting out with basic algebra when I finally got around to attending at 21 years old. A degree in chemistry and a minor in math ensured that I was intellectually challenged and succeeded in becoming literate in the physical sciences. My glaring deficiency I now have to address is the long list of books that everyone is supposed to be familiar with. I recognize many of the titles, because I was supposed to read them at some point, but I mostly just know that books like The Great Gatsby and The Scarlet Letter are books that are widely regarded as worth the time to read. Although some others have given me a greater understanding than just the titel thanks to film adaptations or cliff note summaries. Yes I was that kid.

Now in my 30’s my social and intellectual conscience is pricked for missing references to such great works or getting the references without paying the cost of actually reading the book (“some are more equal than others” is easy enough to get without reading Animal Farm, though I read that one last year so I guess I’m not all bad). A year or two ago I started reading, a lot. My reading has mostly been Mormon history or religious inquiry of some sort because I find it intensely interesting and I feel invested in learning and evaluating my inherited faith. When history books get too dry I turn to some work of literature that I should have read a decade or so earlier or something along those lines (Animal Farm, The Old Man and The Sea, Of Mice and Men, The Road, and All the Pretty Horses for example). I am finding that I have truly missed out.

Recently Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has been widely publicized due to the current wave of racial attacks and struggles as well as the release of her only other book Go Set a Watchman. I never read Mockingbird, I just watched the movie and it is high time to right that wrong. I went ahead and bought a copy because it is a book that I think I should own. One that I think I’d like my kids to see on our bookshelves. I also got caught up in the craze of the release of Go Set a Watchman. I realize now that the timing of the release in Lee’s twilight years is strange and perhaps dubious and that Watchman is thought by some to simply be the discarded scraps of Mockingbird, but I want to read it anyway (I already bought it so why not?).

So the plan is Mockingbird followed immediately by Watchman. I’ve only read a few articles about Watchman so I can base my opinion of it on my actual reading of it rather than the opinions and speculations of bloggers and journalists. I’ll record my thoughts here when I am done.

Here we go. Always repenting.

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4 thoughts on “Time to Confess

  1. As someone who spent high school just like you did, I can commiserate with my lack of literary knowledge. However, I wouldn’t change high school or my litany of failures since. My only regret about high school is that I often wasn’t sensitive to feelings of others when I thought I was being funny. Besides, if we were busy reading books who would have defended the planet from the evil Don Olga?

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    1. Northridge High may well have been more formative than Clearfield High, and more fun really.

      I don’t think I have changed much. I still give attention to what I care about and really resist doing anything that someone else thinks I should care about.

      Also, I think becoming aware of others and being empathetic to them or just being more aware often comes with age. Just last night Kellie and I watched Les Miserables with Hugh Jackman. She was blown away with all the meaning and resonance she found this time around despite having read the abridged book and seeing the musical while a teenager. Experience which come over time is meant to awaken us, I hope.

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