i will only make friends with smart people

from: rochelle
to: kayla
sent: friday, jan 11, 2013

Ok, let’s have a discussion about this so I have something smart to post on my blog.

Vladimir Nabokov said that “the best reader has a combination of two very different temperaments: the artistic and the scientific. A good reader has an artist’s passion, a willingness to get caught up in a story, but just as importantly, he said, the reader also needs the ‘coolness of judgment’ of a scientist, which acts to ‘temper’ or complicate the reader’s intuitive reactions to a story.”

First, you should know that Wikipedia says Vladimir Nabokov was, “a Russian American novelist.  Nabokov’s first nine novels were in Russian.  He then rose to international prominence as a writer of English prose.  He also made serious contributions as a lepidopterist and a chess composer

A lepidopterist is a person who specializes in the study of Lepidoptera, members of an order encompassing moths and the three super-families of butterflies, skipper butterflies, and moth-butterflies.  The term also includes hobbyists who are not formal scholars, who catch, collect, and study, or simply observe lepidopterans.

A chess composer is a person who creates endgame studies or chess problems.  Chess composers usually specialize in a particular genre, e.g. endgame studies, twomovers, threemovers, moremovers, helpmates, selfmates, or fairy problems.  Moreover, composers have their own preferred style of composing, allowing their sorting according to so-called compositions schools.

Fairy problems, or Fairy Chess, comprise chess problems that differ from classical (also called orthodox) chess problems in that they are not direct mates.

Direct mates:  White to move first and checkmate Black within a specified number of moves against any defense.”

…and not, as I had originally suspected, the least confusing or complicated form of intercourse.

Also, it took me 45 minutes to finish this first email because I got lost in Wikipedia.  Again.

Okay, Nabokov’s quote, “the best reader has a combination of two very different temperaments: the artistic and the scientific. A good reader has an artist’s passion, a willingness to get caught up in a story, but just as importantly, he said, the reader also needs the “coolness of judgment” of a scientist, which acts to “temper” or complicate the reader’s intuitive reactions to a story.” Thoughts?  Readyyyyyy… GO:

from: kayla
to: rochelle
sent: friday, jan 11, 2013

You cannot imagine how funny I found that email. It was all, “what the hell is a lepidopterist?! Oh. There’s the answer.” But x12 because you kept looking up all of those made up words.
Also, let’s just review what you said about direct mates: “…and not, as I had originally suspected, the least confusing or complicated form of intercourse.”
Fairy chess still sounds completely made up, and I really don’t know what any of the chess talk was about. (Once, Megan and I decided to become really good chess players. We were going to play every day. We played once.)
Okay. So now we have the quote. And I am going to talk about it. I will think of something very profound. Right..now.
Actually, I think this quote kind of describes the problem with English majors. I classified us into two categories: pompous and “free spirited”. (In this case, “free spirited” is a nice way of saying “dumb”.)
Pompous students like to tell you how much they’ve read and how well they understood it. They talk about literary theories and use made-up words in general discussions to make you feel inferior or to let you know that they are SO SMART. Pompous students talk about reading Ulysses by James Joyce. This is false. No one has read Ulysses by James Joyce because it is impossible to read. Not even James Joyce has read Ulysses by James Joyce. To prove how ridiculous this book is, I offer the following: the average novel has 64,000 words. Ulysses has 265,000. It has a lexicon (vocabulary) of 30,030 words, whereas the average native speaker has an active vocabulary of 3,000, plus an additional 2,000 words that they know if they hear them, but they don’t usually use. So basically what I’m saying is all of the pompous kids are lying. Also, they dress like beatniks.
The free spirited students are almost worse than the pompous ones. Although the pompous students brag about how much they’ve read and act insufferably superior, they do add to class discussions with their insights. The free-spirited students, however, give no such insights. In fact, they don’t even read. I doubt half of them know how. These are the students who got really into Harry Potter or The Princess Diaries and “LOOOOOOOOOOOOVED” to read as kids. And while they probably enjoy the pastime of reading, they like it as a form of entertainment. They have little ability to use their brains’ higher functions, and even “Intro to Lit” taxes their abilities to analyze plot. They hate to write papers and they are shocked that English involves as much writing as it does reading.
The pompous kids have the scientific temperament, but often lack the artist’s passion. They are great at writing thesis statements, understanding the motifs and themes in what they read, but there’s no passion in it. They aren’t willing “to get caught up in a story”.
The free-spirited students have all of the passion they need, but they don’t have the “coolness of judgement” so keep them from shifting emotionally with the story as the characters shift emotionally. When there’s a tragedy, they might cry or feel sad with the characters, but they can’t simultaneously recognize the symbolism. They are especially bad at understanding catharsis when the end of the story leaves some people unwed, others dead. They don’t understand the satisfaction and completeness of a story that doesn’t end well for all characters.
Without the passion and the judgement, a reader misses the nuances in a story, and I believe that the nuances are what make a novel great. The emotion should enhance the literary devices like plot, allusion, and social commentary. But you need both. Without the passion, you’ll only ever appreciate a book for what it does, not how it does it. You will look at it like a well-made proof in geometry. But on the other hand, you cannot feel the depth of the emotion or story in a book without understanding those literary devices and without being able to pull yourself back from the action and look at all parts equally.
Here’s an example of what I mean. This is a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay:
My candle burns at both ends;
  It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–
  It gives a lovely light!
I know that I could be wrong in my reading of this poem, but let’s just assume I know what I’m talking about so that I can make my point. Burning your candle at both ends means working too hard, but basically she’s saying she doesn’t care. People tell her it’s a bad idea, but she enjoys it.
The free-spirited types online give some very interesting interpretations of this poem. The most notable is that this poem is about being bisexual. “My candle burns at both ends” is about Millay liking both ladies and men but not being able to decide even though her foes and friends don’t like it. Maybe Millay was bisexual, I don’t know. She was definitely a slut. But even if she was bisexual IT DOESN’T MATTER. And this poem IS NOT about her sexuality.
The pompous students would likely understand the poem, but they wouldn’t be able to put themselves in the speaker’s position. They can understand this poem is about a woman wearing herself too thin, but they won’t feel it. They won’t be able to live vicariously through her, or to really let the text sink down and affect them.
And that’s all I have to say.
Rochelle’s final note:  I’m the second kind of reader.  And still not sure what a direct mate is.

2 thoughts on “i will only make friends with smart people

  1. Alright. Kayla is smart. And well versed. If she wasn’t your friend I would try really hard not to like her due to feelings of jealousy, which is a shame. I agree with this argument to a degree. The pompous students definitely lack some emotional intelligence that is needed to feel and experience the narrative properly. The other students lack the mental clarity to perceive the deeper meaning. I concur. But can we really take a statement from a dead Russian that attempts to neatly compartmentalize all of humanity into just two categories and call it a truism? Isn’t one of the best parts about immersing yourself in a story the thought that what you take from it may not be what the author intended at all? That each person will identify in different ways, drawing parallels and infering meaning in a way that their particular chemical makeup defines as recognition of self? Isn’t that the beauty of a creative mind? It feels to me that this labeling of humans into two simplistic categories is reductionistic and fails to account for and value the complexities of thought itself. But I wouldn’t know, I’m neither of those students.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *