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Friday, April 12, 2024

Literary Lessons: Stimulating Reading

There are lots of ways of understanding the universe. I always see Life & Style magazines everywhere, and I realize that those are pictures of how I am supposed to comprehend life. I make this hypothesis based on supply and demand. American society will be given the type of philosophy it craves, much in the same way a mother might feed her developing preschooler boxed macaroni and cheese, Doritos, and ice cream every night. Clearly, these glossy pages of gossip are how people want to think about humanity, and they are so provided.

However, for the sake of everything that isn’t social media and supermodels, I would like to propose an alternative. I proposition that we understand the universe not in the way that only satisfies our simulation-hungary id. I suggest a thing called reading.

I can watch Girls and get a solid look at bourgeois, white, indie kids who live in New York City. I receive this with a grain of nudity, well-placed clothing shout-outs and background music. Then again, I could also read Catcher in the Rye and stay on the same theme of melancholy, hedonistic griping about privilege. In that case, I would have a small book that smelt of cigarettes for which I paid $1 from the local SPCA thrift store. However, in watching the Catcher In the Rye movie that played in my mind while I was reading, I was the director, philosopher and general decision maker. I decided if the characters had big or small noses, what their accents were, how the houses looked. I was basically Lena Dunham.

“I Can” watch Nas rap about colonialism on YouTube and see cute little kids sing along to a track about a history of oppression with “Für Elise” playing shyly for four and a half minutes. I could also pick up a copy of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. It would take me about a week to experience an insignificantly small portion of the horror that went on in Nigeria and I could feel culture, passion, rage, confusion and empathy for something that I can’t even really understand. I can’t even be personally connected to these experiences, but the book can make me feel emotions to such an extent that I get frustrated with my own skin color. It makes me think to myself, should I feel guilty?

I can flip go through the pictures of what people wore at the Oscars and be amazed at the ornateness of the dresses, how regal money can make people look and how different I look from the units of perfection I see before me. On the other hand, I could read The Great Gatsby and get to go to incredible parties myself, albeit in my head, and have love affairs with the characters I read before me. Instead of comparing myself to a picture without context of character, morality or circumstance, I get to experience the tumultuous situation of love, isolation and money. In comparison, staring at pictures of expensive dresses might make me feel vapid and empty.

I can turn on any “Real Housewives” episode and be entrenched in gossip and betrayal fed to me through the bodies of unsophisticated pseudo-actors on the fame train. They will no doubt be beautiful and rich, probably dependent on their husbands with so little work experience that they are uncomfortably intrigued by their maids. Instead, however, I could hear a maid tell a heart wrenching tale of love, loss, fortune and magic in Wuthering Heights. I can imagine my own version of what a beautiful, rich, dependent person looks like. Moreover, I don’t have to forcibly forget that everything I see on my TV screen is actually scripted. No, my delightfully deceitful characters have an acknowledged team of screenwriters, that being Emily Brontë and I.

What I mean to conclude is simply that there exist ways of getting our animalistic fixes. I want to hear about cheating wives, murder and self-indulgent complaining. I admittedly enjoy stories about those things. That being said, these stories can be sold in much less simple ways. Reading is one of the few ways that humans can both learn about the universe and create their own universe using their minds. There is a time and a place for everything, I would just encourage everyone to make sure that picking up a book is one of them.

Thank you to everyone who read my column this quarter, to The Aggie for giving me this incredible opportunity and to all past, present and future authors.

 

To read with EREN KAVVAS, you can email her at ebkavvas@ucdavis.edu or read along at her blog, atlas4wanderingminds.blogspot.com.

 

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