Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On being a snob

Max climbed down from the ladder, and refilled my cup. It was a special tea, smoky, and we drank it without anything in it. I liked it. I liked Max. I liked talking with her. At home, everybody (except my parents) was younger than I, and our conversations were limited. And at school, I didn't have any real friends.... Mostly, I felt I was walking through the scene, saying my lines reasonably well, but not being really in the show. At school, I tried to play the role that was expected of me, as best I could. With Max, I was myself.

She laughed at me gently. 'What a snob you are, Polly.'

'Me?' I was startled.

'Why not? It's obvious that school bores you, and that there's nobody to challenge you, teacher or student.'

'A lot of kids are bright.'

She cut me off. 'Go ahead and be a snob. I'm a snob. If you didn't interest me, I wouldn't give you the time of day. Being a snob isn't necessarily a bad thing. It can mean being unwilling to walk blindly through life instead of living it fully. Being unwilling to lose a sense of wonder. Being alive is a marvellous, precarious mystery, and few people appreciate it. Go on being a snob, Polly, as long as it keeps your mind and heart alert. It doesn't mean that you can't appreciate people who are different from you, or who have different interests.'

Max made me not only willing to be Polyhymnia O'Keefe but happy to be.

A House like a Lotus - Madeleine L'Engle
Some quick thoughts:

1. I don't know why this is out of print. I managed to get a second-hand copy from the States when I heard about it.

2. The relationship doesn't end happily, apparently.

3. From the perspective of the study of English language I'm doing at the moment, I clocked the grammatically incorrect "younger than I" - which may be a pompousism in the "snobbish" narrator's voice - and also that L'Engle uses "different from you", not today's more common US usage "different than you." I probably ought to find out about the heritage of "different than".

4. You probably think this song's about you ... it's not.

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