Monday, January 23, 2023

"Enjoyment, amusement, and delight"

Prufrock quotes passages from a review of Before Austen Comes Aesop: The Children’s Great Books and How to Experience Them:
.... Children, as every parent knows, are decidedly not utilitarians. When they walk, they are as interested in the bugs on the ground as in arriving at the destination; eating and getting dressed are alike games. Reading, similarly, is never for something else. In their natural state, children do not read to gather information for a test or to build up their debate skills. Instead they approach books with a “negative capability” that few adults possess. They do not mind—and even enjoy—the mysteries, the circuitous routes, the nonsense words, and the inconsistencies. ....

Gibbon, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and even the arch-utilitarian himself, Jeremy Bentham, all had habits of “desultory reading,” which meant that at young ages they read widely in sources that were probably much too advanced for them. Nowadays such an endeavor would be difficult, both because adults are so keen to curate children’s reading and because so much more is written for young readers. But these famous eighteenth-century child readers apprehended the infinite, the whole of things, even before they could understand, categorize, or classify .... Something like this is the adventure that Blomquist advocates for children and teenagers and, indirectly, for their parents too: Read widely in works that are delightful and strange, ancient and modern. Enjoy the text and pictures of Maurice Sendak and Arnold Lobel, Beatrix Potter and Tomie dePaola. Think of it all not as another burdensome project to be completed but as an activity characterized by enjoyment, amusement, and delight.
Micah Mattix, "Childlike Reading," Prufrock, Jan. 23, 2023.

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