Why We Read

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“Books. Why? And, really, to what end?!” Books are often heavy, Ivan Von Noshrilgram Sr once proclaimed, but they are useful. Books - or livres in French - help us understand the writer's intention.

“What does the writer really mean?” we might ask.

One may regard a book affectionately, watch it closely on the shelf in its natural habitat while hiding behind a potted fern, but to read is much, much more fruitful. Indeed, it brings us closer to the author.

In the fall of 1995, Ivan Von Noshrilgram Sr conceived of an abbreviation of the inimitable Western Canon. Why an abbreviated Western Canon? ...Life is short. With the demands of life, who has time to involve oneself with ideas, or more importantly, the thoughts of others? And, if you are operating heavy machinery, like a hair-dryer, or a large army rifle or something, well, isn’t THAT dangerous? Yes, of course it is. But these are exceptional times, and such times require a heroic response. One such response is engaging in the ultimately dangerous act of reading...


The Western Canon

According to Ivan Von Noshrilgram Sr

What follows is 'The List’ interspersed with helpful quotes from 'The Von Noshrilgram Problem: Philosopher-Botanist, or Extinguished Firewalker?’ which we believe demonstrate his peculiar genius. Eunice, Abdulrahman and I, and everyone at 'The Foundation’ in Amman, Jordon, hope that you find this of some value.


William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)

“Gee. I like those stories by William Shakespeare - whatever language that is he writes in! Born in the sixth year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth he had a mind greater than all others. He was ahead of us then; he is ahead of us now. In fact, some would argue, as literary scholar Harold Bloom did the other day when we were eating toast, that William Shakespeare invented the human too. Imagine that. I think you should read “the Bard”; however, there is an order in which his most important works should be tackled. To crack the nut that is Mr Shakespeare I recommend these masterpieces in the following order”:


1)  The First Part of King Henry the VI

2)  The Second Part of King Henry the VI

3)  The First Third Part of One-eighth of Henry the XII

4)  Most of Henry

5)  Just Henry's Bum

6)  Romeo and Juliet (I believe that's what it's called)

7)  also, the one with all the talking, where the people die at the end. The title escapes me.



“...The Greeks, in particular, were sober thinkers. And they worked out a lot! They also influenced an incalculable number of people that followed them. (That's why they're in the Canon and, well, you're not.) I strongly recommend this short list (by Greeks and other earlier thinkers), if not for the wisdom of these people then simply for reassurance that there are some important recurring themes in literature... Watch the cat there. Look out! ...by my slippers!”:


1)  Rhesus

2)  Medea

3)  Phoenician Women Wowsy Wow Wow

4)  A Letter Concerning Toleration

5)  An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

6)  Hugging 'the Right Way'

7)  Shut Up Eat Your Dinner I'm The Adult

8)  Because I Said So, I Am Taller And My Mass Is Greater

9)  An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (The sequel)

10)  I said 'Just Do It Young Lady'


The UNIVERSE (How does it reeeeally work?)

“...The Universe is there. No, there. ...There! For Christ… Look at my finger, AND FOLLOW IT KID. ...Well, it was there a second ago. '…When?' When you stepped out for crackers. Anyway, there is a universe...why not try to understand it?...”:


1)  On the Sphere and Cylinder Measurement of a Circle

2)  Quadrature of the Parabola

3)  On Spirals

4)  The Straight Line, Curvy Ones Too!

5)  How to Employ a Yo-Yo, (volumes 1 through 18)



“...Your mother called...”:


1)  Selected Papers on Hysteria

2)  The Origin and Development of Psycho-analysis

3)  The Interpretation of Dreams

4)  I Didn't Say 'Banana' I Would Know If I Had Said 'Banana'

5)  You Definitely Said 'Banana', I’m a Medical Doctor


In truth, I, Ivan Von Noshrilgram Jr, cannot honestly say that I have read all of the great works found in this Western Canon, or even that I've read most of them. But, it is reassuring to know that when you are ready, the truth is, indeed, waiting patiently for you there. And if not there, then over there. ...I chuckle.

Who in God's good hell are you talking to, weirdo?” 

I'm speaking into a dicta-phone.

“…You need to speak into a psychiatrist.”

It's for that book, for The Ivan Von Noshrilgram Foundation…

Hmph. …Well, don't make me look like a buffoon, kid.”


This excerpt is from

By Degrees The Gentlest Asinine Expression




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 Copyright (2016) Alistair A. Vogan

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