Gaining a second education, Part Two

I left the army and began a degree. There’s some intervening action in between these two events but I’m happy to leave it at that. I began reading poetry again during this period, purely for pleasure and discovered Seamus Heaney whose words still move my heart today. His interpretation of Beowulf is, in my opinion, the best. Better even than Magnus Magnusson’s.

Want to know how to learn to hate reading? Do an English degree. I guarantee that if you have any desire to be a writer a degree in English Lit. will knock it out of you. You will learn to analyze books you love until you come to hate them and all in the name of regurgitating the lecturers’ views back at her. What’s worse is that you then go into the real world and produce more of this regurgitation and present it as ‘in depth reviews’ of books you don’t like. I still can’t read those reviews without shuddering.

So I quit the course and switched to History. One of these days I get around to finishing it.

I didn’t read anything for a couple of years after that one term of English. I couldn’t read for pleasure at all, the rot had set in too deep. Luckily God had invented Vidya and I lost a lot of time playing games in my free time. Then divorce happened and I lost access to the Vidya and I picked up a book again. The Collected Tales of M.R. James and I was once again a reader. James led to Swain and although I could still hear that little voice in the back of my head seeking to analyze every damned word it was bearable.

Aged thirty I made a decision. I’d read again, but I’d stay well clear of anything with ‘depth’. I read widely but stayed in the now. Cussler, King, and early Koontz were devoured because I didn’t have to think while reading them, they weren’t in any way challenging. Challenging to the world view that had set up home within my mind.

I had grown up on the left, politically. What did the right have to offer a young man brought up in poverty in Britain? My wife was for the left and a committed feminist. When we got divorced I lost all contact with the kids, and she even convinced me that to go along with it, ‘for the good of the children’, ‘for their mental health’. I was so indoctrinated that I didn’t even question it.

Not until I met my second wife anyway. She doesn’t do politics and she doesn’t do feminism and she calls bull poop when she sees it. When the opportunity to have my son come and live with me arose she convinced me to jump at the chance. She also insisted that I read books that made me uncomfortable, that challenged that voice. ‘Fight it, or be owned by it’ is her mantra.

So I did and my second education began.


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