The Portentous Reader

                                                          Alexandra D.

     You have run into them at bookstores, sat next to them in University classes and most likely have one close to you in your inner circle of acquaintances. Being educated at home only heightened the probability of my knowing one. Those unbelievably annoying… portentous readers.

       For those fortunate few who are unfamiliar with these UNfortunate individuals, allow me to enlighten you. The Portentous Reader, is that person who picks up Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina in the original Russian and proceeds to lecture you on WHY it is essential to read the novel in the native language of the author. Now please, dear reader, do not misunderstand me, if I had been blessed with the skill of linguistics, I would most certainty read Tolstoy in his native Russian, Victor Hugo in his native French and Yukio Mishima in his native Japanese; however, I am not blessed in that capacity and therefore, am content to read these notable authors in their humble English translations.

       The Portentous Reader picks up Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The House of the Dead, gives it a contemplated gaze and comments, “perfect, I found my beach read”.  They will brow beat you about how no one appreciates Steinbeck’s parallels in his work Winter of Our Discontent with Shakespeare’s play Richard III (which, is not recommended if you are melancholy, easily depressed or, in general, wish to avoid vivid tales of woe). You catch my drift.

       Now, some of you may be wondering: why is this young writer taking the time to write about such frivolity? Well, it so happens that I have had my fill of Portentous Readers, and needed to vent in some dignified way and thus decided to address the literary community. What is truly vexing about these readers is the rather obvious fact that their reading such works has absolutely nothing to-do with their cultural/intellectual growth, but everything to do with making a statement that they are far above the Twilight reading, tabloid junkie, masses.

       Allow me to now clarify something very important before you, reader, take offense. We have all at one point in our academic career (or other wise) been required to read Shakespeare’s Richard III, and for many, it was an enjoyable experience that they would gladly repeat in the solitude of their home. My point is that those who are sincerely reading a great/notable/critically acclaimed work are doing so for there own pleasure or cultural enlightenment and have no problem sitting quietly in a coffee shop, book cover down, to read in peace. 

       In closing, I offer you words of strength. If in the future, you come across such an individual or are already acquainted with one, I pray for you patience. Understand that they only seek the eyes of astonishment, in their search for the ideal façade of intellectual superiority. Now, if you would excuse me… my first edition, singed copy of This Side of Paradise is waiting… F. Scott Fitzgerald if you were wondering.

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2 Comments

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  1. Alex,

    This was a wonderful observation. I remember years ago reading The Catcher in The Rye in college. Afterward I thought, “That was it?” What in the world was all the big “ho ha” about?

    This also reminds me of a wine taste test done a few years ago. They brought in wine snobs, and winos. They were given several tastes of expensive wine and cheap wine. In almost every case, the wine snobs chose the cheap wine and the winos chose the expensive wine as the best tasting. When the wine snobs were informed of their choice, they actually tried to argue with the taste testers that they had made a mistake.

    The wine testers said their conclusion was that the winos drank cheap booze all the time and so could immediately identify the good stuff.

    Uncle Kevin

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