19 October 2016

An Introduction

The scent of old books is one of the best scents in the world. I will pull old books off my shelf and open them up, and suddenly I am transported to a wonder-filled used bookstore or the oldest of libraries with every nook and cranny stacked with books to explore. 

As I pulled this book by C.S. Lewis off my shelf recently, I felt the urge to read it again. As the old, thick pages in between hardback covers from 1961 flipped open, the scent of old pages rose and I sat down with it. It seems like a book written for me, and indeed, C.S. Lewis wrote Studies In Words for his students, which is what I imagine myself to be. I am taking a course with Professor Lewis by way of his book.

But it is not enough to make sense. We want to find the sense the author intended. (pg.5)

I am savoring these pages, and grasping onto his words as if I was in a lecture taking notes. I study what he says and see so much depth to help me become a better reader. Reading Lewis well will help me grow into a better reader and thinker. His style is blunt and thought-provoking. He removes himself from the equation completely, and acts like a conduit of history amidst the modern mindset.

I cannot gloss over these sentences; they are so rich with lessons applicable to an eager reader and lover of words.

...if in fact, we are content with whatever effect the words accidentally produce in our modern minds - then of course we do not read the poem the old writer intended. (pg. 3)

It is hardly a notion most readers pay any attention to: those of us who read poems or old works. What perspective is the writer writing from? What was happening in that time? What do certain words mean in that time? Words change in meaning over centuries, so are we mis-reading sometimes?

I am only in the introduction and have underlined and written in the margins frequently. The slow enjoyment of such meaty and sustaining words by Lewis keeps me focused. These are lessons to reflect on as I become a more attuned reader, one that might have been sitting in a lecture hall while Lewis's booming voice echoed off the ancient stone walls. Lewis wrote this book when he was at Cambridge, but I imagine him at Oxford, where he taught for 30 years. (I am sure Cambridge is lovely, and one day I will visit and will love it.)

Of vital importance is using words and reading words well. Knowing part of a word's history and usage throughout centuries helps us understand what we say and what that actually means. Let us use words meaningfully, and let us read in the light of that time period (historically and culturally).

It is well we should become aware of what we are doing when we speak, of the ancient, fragile, and (well used) immensely potent instruments that words are. (pg. 6)

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