Saturday, July 19, 2014
"We Have Books on LeBron James"
Yesterday, driving over to Kent after a visit to Szalay's farm market, we passed the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library and, as usual, took quick looks at their electric sign outside, a sign which advertises events and other features of this fine library (that sign is not visible in the photo above). Yesterday evening, I read this: We have books about LeBron James.
Well, the Snooty Me would say that if it's about LeBron James, it's not a book, and I'll confess that Snooty Me was especially Snooty in the ensuing miles we drove. I was barking things like Why not advertise that you have books by and/or about Henry James? Or William James? Or Alice James? Or even Will James!?!? And so I steamed and fussed and fizzed for quite a while. Does LeBron get to dominate everywhere? Even the library, for Melvil Dewey's sake?
Eventually, Snooty Me got tired and More Reasonable Me emerged from hiding, checking the sky to make certain no more bolts of lightning were zigzagging his way.
Yes, I'm sick of LeBron-o-mania; I'm sick, in general, of the excessive celebration of athletes we see from T-ball through the World Series (even though I benefited, moderately (very moderately), from such celebration in my own school days); I'm sick of seeing bright, scholarly kids bullied, marginalized, consigned to the school library while the athletes are enjoying yet another pep rally or bonfire or trophy presentation or any other sort of secular beatification. (Our community willingly--eagerly--spends millions on athletic facilities for kids.) I'm sick of seeing our athletes dominating entire sections of newspapers, entire clusters of channels on cable, astonishing chunks of bandwidth on the Internet, entire universities ...
Don't get me wrong. I've always loved baseball, basketball, and other sports (though I find I don't watch them anymore--but I still check the Tribe score every morning). When I taught, I used to enjoy playing with the kids at lunch (Nerf football, Frisbee, 4-Square, etc.). If you're great at sports, good for you. If you keep active throughout your life, you should enjoy many healthy decades. I'm talking about balance.
Anyway, back to Reasonable Me ... I remembered, after I cooled down, that I did not begin my reading life with Henry James but with the equivalent of LeBron James books. One of the earliest biographies I remember reading was about Lou Gehrig--I think it was called The Iron Horse. I read piles of cruddy Westerns and sports novels. Piles. For years. Then, gradually, I began to put away childish things. In high school--under the influence of Mr. Brunelle, whose English classes I had; in college--under the influence of Dr. Ravitz (I took seven English courses from him); in my marriage--under the influence of Joyce Dyer; in my teaching career--under the influence of thousands of students ... I began reading the great works of literary history--and continue to do so.
But it was not Henry James who drew me into the libraries of my youth (in fact, when I was younger, he would have driven me away from the library!); it was Lou Gehrig and Wild Bill Hickok and Jim Bowie and Nancy Drew (I did not let my friends know I was reading about her!) and The Kid from Tompkinsville and ... the assorted LeBron Jameses of the day ...
So, Stow-Munroe Falls: Keep the signs glowing. Get those kids in the library. Get them reading. Try to make sure they never stop, not until the light fails.