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Essay

The Scarlet Reader

By December 1, 2016 No Comments
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by Sarina Gruver Moore
I once joked to a class that I am a promiscuous reader. They looked at me like I was the Bad Influence their parents warned them about. “I’m quoting Milton,” I protested weakly. “And what he means is that we should read widely, indiscriminately. From the Latin.” I don’t think I convinced them.

I’ve been a promiscuous reader for as long as I can remember. I can’t be sure of this, but I think I may have read every book in my parents’ library when I was growing up. There I stumbled across many gems: John Donne and George Herbert, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, my mother’s Civil War history books, my father’s interlinear Greek bible. I also read a whole bunch of crap (I’m looking at you, Christian romance novels), including every single piece of junk mail that ever landed in our mailbox. (I wish that were a joke, but no.)

My husband pointed out that I still read indiscriminately, just now on my smart phone. A quick check of my recent search history yields these goodies: a Thanksgiving turkey recipe; the etymology for the word “happy;” a Brainpickings article, “C.S. Lewis on Suffering and What It Means”; an article on “Mapping the Brain’s Metaphor Circuitry;” a recipe for roasted sweet potatoes; a raft of Obama/Biden memes; an article on “How Literary Fiction Teaches Us to be Human”; and a whoooooole bunch of Facebook.

In the pamphlet Areopagatica, published in 1644 at the height of the English Civil War, Milton makes a strong case that expansive, curious reading “is necessary to the constituting of human nature.” The document is perhaps the most famous defense in English for the freedom of the press and in opposition to state censorship. The state’s good health, he argues, is directly related to the ability of its people to read widely and freely.

I don’t need to draw a modern parallel here, do I? A blog such as this offers promiscuous, democracy-saving reading aplenty—political commentary, theological rumination, pop culture analysis, prophetic witness manifestoes, humorous personal anecdotes—all jumbled together in happy confusion.

So pony up, people—it’s pledge-drive week. Let’s keep this quality content going. Because it’s either this, or those fake news sites we’ve all been reading about.

Go ahead. Click the pretty blue button.

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Sarina Gruver Moore teaches English literature at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.

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