Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Road-Testing the Purpose-Driven Life: I'd Miss the Good Old Days, but They Were before My Time

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Road-Testing the Purpose-Driven Life: I'd Miss the Good Old Days, but They Were before My Time

Article excerpt

I'll never forget the day I read a book. It was contagious. Seventy pages. There were pictures here and there, so it wasn't hard to bear, the day ... I read a book.--Jimmy Durante

Who better to set the tone for our special issue on books than a 1950s-era singer who, unlike celebrities today, sang fully clothed. (Jimmy Durante's schnoz was bad enough, so you gotta figure the audience had absolutely no interest in seeing his navel.) Of course, if you've never heard of Jimmy Durante then you're obviously too young to have experienced classic American music, or the other joys we older people take for granted, such as shaving our ears.

But before I lapse completely into missing the good old days (which were before my time), let's focus on the main topic at hand: books, and the fact that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you can't avoid reading them.

If you're like me, you get most of your information from supermarket tabloids or comic books, the kind where heavily-muscled figures, speaking cryptically in word balloons, solve the world's problems the only way they can: with righteous anger and vigilante justice. (What do you expect from people who survived, say, a freak laboratory accident that left them with super-human strength and, in the case of Lizard Man, a really bad skin condition? They get cranky.)

Occasionally, however, I have ventured somewhat deeper into the realms of literature, enough to have some clear favorites.

For laser-like political commentary, one need look no further than Curious George at the Fire Station, a barely concealed metaphor for this country's ill-conceived war in Vietnam and the way in which three successive administrations failed to stop it. But maybe I'm reading too much into it.

And then there's my Instruction Manual (for Your New Television Set!). Be honest: How many books make you feel special from the very first line? 'Congratulations," beans this manual, which then proceeds enthusiastically through the set-up instructions, its frequent use of exclamation points sustaining a reassuring pride in your choice of appliance. No wonder it's easy to overlook the unavoidable translation problems from the original Chinese, which leaves text much incoherent and poorly; punctuated!

Lately, I've been trying to get more from my reading. …

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