But here’s the thing: one day my English teacher spotted the paperback on my desk. She asked me if I was reading 1984 for another class. I said no. She asked me if I liked it. I said it was pretty good but some parts were hard to understand. The next day she brought in her personal copy of Brave New World and lent it to me.
My reading became frightfully promiscuous from then on and remains only slightly less so today. I was moved to write (or try to) by The World According to Garp and Under the Volcano. These two books should not be read by an earnest young writer in the same summer. I remember the searing experience of discovering Blood Meridian and wondering how I would ever learn to write with McCarthy’s thundering cadences.
I did everything short of selling a kidney to get out of the “major author” prerequisite necessary to graduate from Georgetown with a bachelor’s in English literature, but after suffering through Shakespeare, I had no choice but to submit to a dourer DWEM. Lucky thing, because Milton turned out to be the best class I took in college, and Paradise Lost superior, in my view, to anything composed by the more-celebrated Stratford-upon-Avon Bard.