Jan, your question, as well as a comment on this thread and one or more on another of your threads got me to thinking about a bunch of stuff. First of all, how much of what we do and don’t like is due to our developed or undeveloped tastes? Make any comparison you want to regarding food or drink: quality vs. mass produced coffee, tea, wine, beer; haute cuisine, ethnic cuisine of every variety; dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate; etc. These are all acquired tastes, and—laying aside the snob factor and honest differences in tastes—there absolutely is something to the idea of needing to develop our tastes. That was one of the points in the article that Leah linked to about adults reading YA fiction. By the way, I don’t have a dog in that fight (other than the validity of the point I just mentioned); the article has brought some scathing blowback, which makes some valid counterpoints.
I’ve thought about this with regard to whether my own tastes may not be adequately developed. I know that I’ve started Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum several times and never gotten very far. I don’t like Hemingway, on the whole, as much as I “should,” either the novels or the short stories, although I find certain individual passages superb. Same with Carl Sandberg’s Abraham Lincoln.
One other quick thought before turning to your question. I think Lillian is right that that sentence from Maya Angelou is easy to mis-read, but I think you are also right, Jan, about Angelou’s word choice. The easy answer, would have been for Angelou to add the comma between “that” and “I.” alternatively, she could have used the double “that”: “ I felt for weeks after that that I had been . . . .”
As for your question, the thing that struck me was how hard it was to answer
. Mostly what I read is the Bible, biblical commentaries, court opinions, law review articles, and other academic materials. For reasons that might or might not be obvious to others, but which are obvious to me, I did not include those as sources from which to draw an answer.
No big deal, I thought to myself. Even though the above materials are what I MOSTLY read, I read plenty of other things, too. Surely, I thought, I can answer this question. Especially since I am a multi-book-simultaneously reader. But then I eliminated many of the those books, too. I am reading a book on chess strategy, a (published) diary, a book of speeches showing the author’s original draft plus his alterations, Agatha Christie’s The Grand Tour (which is really a bunch of her letters edited by her grandson together with photos, newspaper clippings, etc.), and Martin Gardner’s The Annotated Alice (an annotated edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Though the Looking Glass) (another book that I have started many times, but never finished). I eliminated all of these for reasons that again might or might not be obvious to others but which are obvious to me.
That still left a few. Several of the books I mentioned above, I am trying again to read. Those include Sandberg’s Lincoln, Hemingway’s In Our Time, and Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. In addition, I am reading 2 by Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and a lesser known one, Tom Sawyer, Detective. Finally (or close enough), I am reading one “Christian” novel.
But, trying to find a passage from these presented still presented two problems
: First, as mentioned above, whether because my taste is underdeveloped or whether it is just different from other people’s, I haven’t found a lot of passages that are so good or so bad that they qualify for your question. Second, even when I remember that a book contains such passages, I can’t quickly find them.
But, in my attempt to somehow answer the question, I thought go back to the opening pages of Foucault’s Pendulum, which I have examined multiple times. You can see them here
(click on "Look INside"; then click a few pages into the book to get past hte Table of Contents to the first page of text).
After looking at them, perhaps you will see why I wonder whether my tastes are simply not adequately developed. This chapter begins with a Hebrew quotation; other chapters begin with others quotations from esoterica, many in foreign languages.
But, if one ignores these—and what did Eco expect (especially of North American readers?)—the opening paragraphs are quite interesting, if one can plow through their denseness. The third paragraph drew me into the feeling of the arcane (to use a word of Eco’s translator), if not the occult: “the magic of that serene breathing”; the description of π; and “singularity . . . duality . . . triadic . . . the secret quadratic . . . .” Yet, the next paragraph let me know both of the author’s dry playfulness and that something was afoot other than what the third paragraph had led me to believe: the pendulum was a fraud.
And the next paragraph—the fifth—both contains great writing and caused me to reconsider my re-consideration of what was going to happen in this book with its references to Atlantis, Mu, the Masters, Agarttha, and Avalon, mixed with references to real places—all in support of creating the sensation of a pendulum (to return to the point about great writing).
Yet, having said this, I still wonder whether I’ll ever be able to slog all the way through this book.