Old Habits

It’s perhaps not surprising that a person of my advanced age should have a few habits, habits so ingrained that even I have no idea when they began.

Whenever I visit the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, I stop in at the administration office AFTER I’ve walked the five and a half mile outer loop and check the list of recently sighted birds. The staff always seems amused that I read the list after I’ve already finished my walk. Of course, since I’ve only been walking Nisqually for a little over a year, I can remember when I started doing this.

But it wasn’t until today that I finally connected some dots and realized why I do it. The habit of checking what I might have missed actually stems from the way I read books.

I never read the introduction to a book until AFTER I’ve finished the book. I vaguely recall a long-forgotten teacher suggesting this years ago, but I know I’ve been doing it since I was a college underclassmen.

As a teacher I seldom, if ever, assigned the introduction to novels the class was reading.

Why?

I don’t like to be told what to expect or how to react before I read a book. It seems to me to be a mistake to go into a work expecting certain ideas to emerge. If you read the book, those ideas should naturally emerge. Either that, or the person writing the introduction misinterpreted the work.

Needless to say, this has worked well for me most of the time, or it wouldn’t be so ingrained.

Equally needless to say, sometimes I realize that it might have helped to read an introduction first, particularly if it turns out to be an insightful, sensitive introduction.

This is just to say, that tomorrow I’ll be discussing the the introduction to Bachelard’s book. It may well turn out to be my favorite part of his book.

3 thoughts on “Old Habits

  1. I read introductions first. Occasionally introductions are better than the rest of the book. In the case where a book doesn’t sustain for me the lively spirit of the introduction, I am apt to feel disappointment and then stop reading.

What do you think?