“What do you despise? By this are you truly known.”
When I first read that quotation in Dune twenty years ago, it struck me as something true and profound. It’s been incorporated into my worldview so long and so thoroughly that I don’t always notice the words themselves, even if they’re there at the back of my mind.
It’s one metric by which I judge others and myself, and it’s something that’s been in my head a lot lately not only because I am re-reading Dune and realizing what a formative book it was for me, but also because of everything going on in the world right now.
We live in an age of militant, polarized opinions. Some people share their opinions online; others go out to protest. Either way, this is always the question I ask.
The Little Engine That Could is female! And so is the red engine who breaks down on her way to bring toys and food to children. I didn’t remember this book well, so I was surprised to find this out when I started reading it to my toddler.
Incidentally, all three engines who refuse to help are self-important dudes. Well, one of them is actually an old, tired dude. His depression-era exhaustion makes me sad.
It makes me wonder if there is an intentional message hidden in the Dude-Engines’ unwillingness to help with the female task of making sure children are taken care of.
When does reading more books cease to to have any benefit and turn into consumption for its own sake? The other night, while trying to get through even half an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, my partner and I instead discussed this and how some books are better suited to slow reading.
Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit is such a book. It’s dense with history and beautifully written, with plenty of lines worth lingering over, and really thinking about. I started reading this book a couple years ago, before I got past my underlining phobia, and I knew it would be worth revisiting, pencil in hand.
I’m looking forward to the later chapters, which go into city design and feminism, but between reading seven other books and deliberately going through this one slowly, it’s probably going to take months.