An absurd proposal

I’m not particularly well-read. I lie. I’m not well-read at all, having last studied any kind of literature in my last year of high school. Whoops, actually I did make an attempt at higher reading out of interest some time later, but more on that, later.

So back in high school, I read a number of works by Shakespeare, something I think most North American high school students do. I saw words and structures that I had never encountered previously, my text was filled with footnotes, sight reading in class was always a point for embarrassment, and formal instruction plus the threat of course failure was required to maintain something barely approaching enthusiasm. Things got progressively better, if slowly, but only because I was being prodded up the learning curve.

A while ago, I tried to read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by Joyce. I had a gift certificate, I’m cheap, it was in the bargain bin, and I had never encountered such stream of consciousness as I did in the first arc of that book. Not even while daydreaming, although I suppose that’s a bad example since I’m technically zoning out. How about, not even while trying to dodge grenades and shotgun blasts while returning fire, while my aim is swinging in figure-eights, while defending a flag and having my frame rate drop below 30 fps.

My comprehension abilities at the height of my iambic pentameter parsing powers probably clocked in at about half a page per minute. I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty poor. School textbooks are larger than commercial paperback equivalents to accommodate my still shaky fine motor skills; this wasn’t densely packed text or anything. My comprehension abilities trying to parse someone else’s stream of consciousness? About one-eighth that. Clearly gift certificate credits well spent.

Maybe before people get all up in arms over literal translations in fansubs, we should try localizing some of this arcane or outright wrong English. It’s certainly doable. I mean, half of the assignments I received in English class were to express some passage in my own words, and because I don’t speak Shakespeare to this day, to me that meant “lay it out for the layman.” Coles Notes rakes in the dough for doing pretty much that. But instead of using a localized reference to study literature, we should just study localized literature.

Except any English teacher is well within their rights to smack you upside the head for suggesting that. It took me a couple minutes to find the iodine bottle. It’s English class, not English class for Idiots (is that book series taken already?). There are barriers to entry and, I suppose, enjoyment. Readers are held to a standard.

So why not viewers?