Barry Smith: Irrelativity
July 20, 2009
“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” – Mark Twain
• • • •
Funny thing about that quote – I didn’t actually find it in a Mark Twain book. I vaguely remembered seeing it printed on a bookmark or something years ago, and I just now Googled it.
Another funny thing, in a tragi-comic sort of way – I don’t think I’ve ever read a Mark Twain book.
Sure, I read “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” in high school, but that’s just a short story, not an actual book. I might have read “Tom Sawyer,” but I might also be confusing reading it with having seen the Disney movie, the one in the ’70s that starred Johnny Whitaker, the kid who played “Jody” in “Family Affair.”
Wait, it gets worse – after writing that last paragraph I went on a half-hour Internet rampage reading all about “Family Affair,” a sitcom that always creeped me out as a kid. I know a fair bit about it at this point, like the fact that the actress who played uber-adorable “Buffy” overdosed when she was 18, way back in 1976 – probably right around when I was actually watching the show for the first time in reruns! There’s a chance that I was watching her on TV at the exact same moment that she was in California OD-ing! That’s heavy.
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Yet I’ve never read “Tom Sawyer.” What a loser.
I know, I know – I could have taken that same half-hour I just spent reading about “Buffy” and gotten a healthy start on “Tom Sawyer,” then each time I feel like screwing around “researching” other things online I could pick up the book instead. Or I could download the complete works of Mark Twain and read it off the computer screen, taking away the “my book wasn’t handy” excuse. I could be done with “Tom Sawyer” by Thursday. Or, how about this – I could have read it back before there was such a thing as the Internet! Like everybody else did! Yeah, thanks for pointing all that out so clearly.
Look, it’s not that I don’t want to read “Tom Sawyer.” I just … haven’t.
Guess I’m going to finally have to cross “Become Well Read” off my to-do list. Not check it off, as in “successfully completed,” but cross it off, as in “loser.” It’s going to be quietly swept aside so many other ambitious plans I’ve put on the list in the past, like “Swim English Channel (backstroke)” and “Free Tibet” and “Laundry.” It’s time to face some harsh reality – my “well-read” window of opportunity has not only closed, but has been boarded up, condemned, and covered with poorly spelled graffiti.
This is on my mind because of that “well-read” list that’s been circulating Facebook for a while. It lists 100 “classics,” and you’re supposed to count up how many you’ve read, write this number prominently in the heading of the message then forward the list to all of your friends, or at least the friends you suspect have read less than you have, so they can have a go. It’s pretty blatant “I’m smarter than you” snobbery, and I refuse to partake, especially after realizing that the list could also be titled “Books That Everyone Has Read Except For Barry.” Whatever.
But maybe I’m giving up too easily. Again. Maybe it’s the list that needs to be adjusted, not my reading habits. It’s not like I’ve never read anything. I read stuff. Totally. Just because I’ve never read “Madame Bovary,” and probably never will, does that make me a clod? No. If only the proper “well-read” criteria checklist were compiled, THEN my results would be very impressive.
– All of my e-mails, as well as all the links included in them, and many of the links found in those links
– Daredevil Vol. 13 – The Murdoch Papers
– The Pop-up Book of Phobias
– Most recent issue of Mac Life
– Wikipedia entry for “Family Affair”
– Instruction booklet for new bicycle helmet
– Back of Cascadian Farms “Cinnamon Raisin Granola” cereal box
– Hop on Pop
– Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters
– The Zoom Catalog
– About half of this column
Next time: Places I’ve Never Been, Languages I Don’t Speak, Basic Concepts I Don’t Understand, Things I Don’t Have, Important People I’ve Never Even Heard Of and other ego-boosting lists.
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