Alone Amidst Allusions
I love reading.
But I’m finding that books are a dangerous dalliance. Did you see that, right there? Dalliance. That’s not an everyday word. That’s a book word. Dalliance is for readers and writers. Dalliance is for Mr. Darcy at a Pemberly ball. Where most people would say flirtation or love affair, I say dalliance. It’s a rich word. Language is beautiful. Language is strong and thick and deep. It feels good, forming in your mouth, profoundly coming off your tongue. Okay, language can be dirty. Just low-class and dirty. Let’s move on.
For avid readers, our familiarity with good diction tends to make us stand out when we speak. At best, it makes us seem intelligent, but out of touch. At worst, it makes us seem snobby or even condescending. People sort of back off or glaze over when you use a word they don’t understand. I don’t mean to sound heady or fanciful when I say dalliance. It’s commonplace for me, regularly used in literary vernacular. (Doing it again…crap.)
I’ve always had a critically discerning (read: snobby) view of literature. As an academic and a skeptic, I prefer to expend my time with scholarly material. So Twilight, for example… no.
If it isn’t true, don’t waste my time with it. If it isn’t artful, I’m uninterested.
So I cling to Twain, Plath, Vonnegut, Tolstoy. I was a lit major, what can I say? I’ve definitely seen more sonnets than sunsets. (I’m kind of an indoor girl.) While I love a good 500 page essay on Beowulf, lately I find myself going back to fiction. Good fiction. Fantastical fiction.
Give me magic and elves and dragons. I’ll take all of it. I’ll also have your lovely period pieces with gorgeous gowns and cathedrals and handsome suitors calling. What the hell, I’ll even read your adolescent fiction about existentially finding oneself and overcoming life’s breakdowns with a soulmate waiting at the end. To me, that seems just as otherworldly as a faun meeting a little girl by a woodland lamp post.
Despite my logical nature and pragmatism, I eat that stuff up. I think I’m in a bit of an isolated bubble and I’m starting to get worried. I’m not about to stop reading, but what if reading has inadvertently made me more unreasonable than I should be? I’m left waiting for a kindred spirit like Anne Shirley, but there’s no one around who gets it, or cares. In a society of cheap conversation and drunkenness, I feel like my brain is rotting out through my ears. I’ve found myself in groups by default rather than choice. Most people I’ve met find my pursuits and my personality annoying and aloof. When once I could wax poetic about history, politics, or theory, I find myself with nothing to say.
C.S. Lewis said “we read to know we’re not alone.” What if these stories have only deepened my disconnect with people? I’m stuck using words no one knows and quoting passages they haven’t read. It’s awkward and made socializing a lot harder. But as Polonious said in Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true.” So I read and I write. I craft polysyllabic words unintentionally. I swoon over Enjolras and Faramir. It’s the best part of me, even if no one around me understands it or likes it. I can’t change that; I won’t change that. So while Polonious didn’t last very long, his words have echoed through time and struck a chord with me. Well played.