...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Feels like I'm eleven again

When I was in early grade school, I liked to look at our family's copies of the Great Books and imagine that I'd read them all when I become older. I looked at the book's smooth tan spines and imagined my future library filled with similarly-bound books. I just looked and imagined – then I'd pick up letter C of the children's illustrated encyclopedia and read my favorite article "Cooking", which was basically the only article I ever read at that time. My defense whenever my siblings accused me of not reading was to recite the "Cooking" article again and again like a parrot. I knew it from start to finish then. Now I can only recall the first lines:

"Who cooks dinner?
Mother does, but sometimes father might."

(Yeah, those were the days before gender sensitivity and political correctness. In letter S under "Sharks", the Precyclopedia, as it was called, also had a picture of two Chinese kids smiling and slurping on shark fin soup. Nobody had heard of wildlife conservation then either.)

To the delight of my siblings who were tired of hearing "Cooking", I grew older and started to read more books. And even though I seldom actually cracked the Great Books (except for reading the philosophers for school much much later), I did end up accumulating a good collection of children's and young adult books and occasionally read books from off my sister's and dad's shelves.

Now why did I remember all this?

It's because when you're so used to reading that you hardly reflect on the activity anymore, and when you've gotten so used to the reading in a certain language that you hardly ever need to look up a word anymore, the joy of "discovering" reading and learning new words comes back when you see things like this:

This is a page from Paul Auster's Oracle Night, which I borrowed from the library this summer so I could read something in English again.

No matter what my opinion is about "vandalizing" public property – such as the underlining of words in library books – it's charming to see which words the previous reader underlined: "scraps", "stagnant", "torpid", "greenish", "skies", "fumes", "exhaust" and "slab". Words that I wouldn't open the dictionary for nowadays. But 15 years ago perhaps?

In fact, I remember reading Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time at around that time. I was around 11 or 12 and it was the first long book I ever read, so I created a list called "vocabulary words" in my Sailormoon notebook. I don't remember the whole list, but I do remember that it included "compulsion". I liked to use that word then to show what a smart kid I was. Maybe the person who borrowed this book will look up "torpid" and think that it's a good word to impress friends with. Does he/she put down the words in a notebook too, I wonder?

Anyway, a few weeks after returning Oracle Night, I leafed through one of my Swedish notebooks from a year back and had the same feeling I had when I rediscovered the Sailormoon notebook from my grade school years. There were many words there which I think are simple enough now, and words that I've learned to incorporate in my speech since – words exactly like "greenish" (grönaktig), "slab" (skiva) and "exhaust" (avgaser), which are so simple now but were alien words back then. Now there's a promising thought. Give me a few years and I may even forget that I worked so hard to learn Swedish at all; I may reach a point where I'd seldom need to use the dictionary; maybe I could even read those Great Books in Swedish, which would be cool. But as it happens, while I'm thinking about that time, I'm just reading a book about – you guessed it – cooking!


Blogger aka Cheryl said...

hey cool, mention of paul auster and madeleine l'engle, two authors i'd likely not know if not for you.

... and i thought you were really smart. nagpapanggap ka lang pala! hahaha, i'm kidding. and i didn't know you were also into sailormoon?

2:34 AM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

"... and i thought you were really smart. nagpapanggap ka lang pala! hahaha, i'm kidding." --> Yeah I was just pretending! Actually I copied your answers in English class. Haha! Just kidding!

"and i didn't know you were also into sailormoon?" --> Oh yeah! I used to go to Anya's house just to watch the new episodes that were showing then in the U.S. but not in the Philippines (she got tapes from her aunts). And I collected Sailormoon cards and stationery. And I later went to cosplays dressed as Sailor Venus. I also watched Slam Dunk (but much much later when it wasn't showing on TV anymore). Ranma 1/2 though, is something I picked up from you. Later, we would buy the whole Ranma series on VHS. If you only knew how into anime we were then! Haha!

11:46 AM

Blogger Carlo said...

Hullo Joy! I'm not proud of this but I still have one of your Auster books and I haven't read it yet. I also have your sister's copy of "Don't Look Back" (that one I read and it creeped me out), huhuhuhu...

7:57 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Carlo: Aha! So the "Book of Illusions" is with YOU? :-D I'll try to remember it until we see each other next.

I got to your new blog! I'll refresh the link.

9:29 PM

Blogger Carlo said...

Yes, it's still wif me, and I think I'll have the time to finally read it when I go to Manila this Christmas. Be assured that I intend to return it in perfect condition, hahaha! :o)

Oh, by the way, I've been following this weekly show called Girl From Hell which I think is slightly darker than Sailormoon or Ranma 1/2 but still very, very interesting. Have you ever watched this?

9:53 AM


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