What I’m Reading: The Sportswriter by Richard Ford

The SportswriterAlmost done with The Sportswriter by Richard Ford, the first novel I’ve read since March, I think. Again, no book reports. Just great passages I’d like to share.

Frank Bascombe on teaching:

“What I found, of course, when I got my feet under me was that I had about as much business teaching in college as a duck has riding a bicycle, since what was true was that in spite of my very best efforts, I had nothing to teach.”

“It’s rare, when you think about it, that anyone ever would, given that the world is as complicated as a microchip and we all learn it slowly. I knew plenty of things, a whole lifetime’s collection. But it was all just about myself, and significant only to me (live is transferable; location isn’t actually everything). But I didn’t care to reduce any of it to fifty minute intervals, to words and a voice ideal for any eighteen year old to understand. That’s dangerous as a snake and runs the risk of discouraging and baffling students – whom I didn’t even like – though more crucially of reducing yourself, your emotions, your own value system – your life – to an interesting syllabus topic.”

This is why I loved my professor:

“…What I did hate, though, and what finally sent me at a run out of town after dark at the end of term, without saying goodbye or even turning in my grades, was that…the place was all anti-mystery types right to the core – men and women both – all expert in the arts of explaining, explicating and dissecting, and by these means promoting permanence. For me that made for the worst kind of despairs, and finally I couldn’t stand their grinning, hopeful teacher faces. Teachers, let me tell you, are born deceivers of the lowest sort, wince what they want from life is impossible – time-freed existential youth forever. It commits them to terrible deceptions and departures from the truth. And literature, being lasting, is their ticket.”

And this is why I hated all my other professors.

“Everything about that place was meant to be lasting – life no less than the bricks in the library and books of literature, especially when seen through the keyhole of their incumbent themes: eternal returns, the domination of man by the machine, the continuing saga of choosing middling life over zesty death, on and on to a wormy stupor. Real mystery – the very reason to read (and certainly to write) any book – was to them a thing to dismantle, distill and mine out into rubble they could tyrannize into sorry but more permanent explanations; monuments to themselves, in other words. In my view, all teachers should be required to stop teaching at age thirty-two and not allowed to resume until they’re sixty-five, so that they can live their lives, not teach them away – live lives full of ambiguity and transience and regret and wonder, be asked to explain nothing in public until very near the end when they can’t do anything else.”

And this is why, my grandfather, a man of few words and never really bothered to explain anything with more than a shrug, lived so long.

“Explaining is where we all get into trouble.

Some things can’t be explained. They just are. And after a while they disappear, usually forever, or become interesting in another way. Literature’s consolations are always temporary, while life is quick to begin again. It is better not even to look so hard, to leave off explaining. Nothing makes me more queasy than to spend time with people who don’t know that and who can’t forget, and for whom such knowledge isn’t a cornerstone of life.”

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