The Musings of a Wallflower: Writing to Read, Part I

According to Horn Book Magazine, Stephen Chbosky’s novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower was the sixth most challenged book of 2008. In the magazine’s own words, they are attempting to “herald the best in children’s literature.” This dusty volume has been sitting on my personal bookshelf for years, and though I’m not yet sure about the label of “children’s literature,” I acknowledge this book as a favorite.

The only real problem with this book being a personal favorite is the fact that I’ve become a bit of a minimalist, and I find myself self-inflicting the wounds of justification. Now, if you’ve read my writing for any amount of time, you know I like to define words. Justification is not getting a free pass. The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that justification is “the action of or result of showing something to be just, right, or reasonable.” As with many personal possessions these days, I find the need to force myself to justify owning an item long-term when it doesn’t appear to add daily value to my life.

If you want a long, drawn out discussion of why I have been embracing minimalism, this isn’t the post for that.

It comes down to this—I need to extract some fresh, tangible value from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In my heart, I know it is important and necessary to own this book. At least, it is important and necessary to me. So I considered, as I did another sweep through my book collection to weed out those titles not earning their keep, how can I bring value to this book that is so important to me I am willing to continue to hold on to it in the face of my move toward minimalism?

I value writing. I value exploring my own thoughts through writing. I value offering something to others, especially when it comes to ideas, books, music, art, or standards I hold close.

I thought, “I hold it close, so let me read it close.” Let me read it again, but let me write as I read. If I write as I read Chbosky’s novel again, maybe by the end I will have a better understanding of why the book means so much to me. Many people believe we write to understand ourselves or our beliefs, anyway.

In fact, it is argued that writing as we read helps us learn. In the instance of this novel I am unable to part with, learning is essential. In essence, I am asking to learn why it is important for me to hold onto the novel. Why do I not want to donate it to Goodwill? Why do I not want to swap it on Paperback Swap? In order to learn, it seems writing as I read the book closely can assist.

Judith K. Taylor did a study about how writing as we read helps us learn. In fact, she writes in her paper on the study that “Writing makes learning happen…Being asked to consider what the author is getting at in each reading is new, and even, at times, exciting.”

Can I inspire excitement in random blog readers across the internet? I don’t know. You probably think I’m being nuts, or overly academic, or straight up boring. I’m value-extracting here, yo. Taylor also tells us that “While eliminating much of the anxiety associated with writing, journaling yet forces thought onto the reading process.” It is clear I’ve removed the anxiety, here. I am doing this for pure research, pure investigation, pure book soul-searching. No one is grading me on this. No one has to read it or even like it. People may ignore this blog post and any others related to this subject entirely. What’s it matter, though, if I learn something about myself by the end? See, anxiety nixed. Now I can “force” some of that “thought onto the reading process.”

Look out thought, because I am about to mess you up.

With all this in mind, I embark on a journey to read Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the first time in years. A close reading. A detailed reading. A reading that seeks to learn something new, and something about myself.

If you can dig it, keep your eyes peeled for blog posts to come. If you don’t dig it, or don’t even want to try to dig it, just read all my other rockin’ blog posts instead.

The legal, not plagiarizing, not being blackballed from the writing world, stuff (or, in academic terms, Citations, yo). Dig it:

“About Us.” The Horn Book. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2015.

“Challenged Books.” Horn Book Magazine 85.5 (2009): 535. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 June 2015.

Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Pocket Books, 1999. Print.

“justification, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 14 June 2015.

Taylor, Judith K. Write To Understand: Journaling In The Reading/Study Classroom. n.p.: 1985. ERIC. Web. 14 June 2015.

12 thoughts on “The Musings of a Wallflower: Writing to Read, Part I

Add yours

  1. I have books just can’t part with. Several are out on my nightstands and coffee table and I pick them up often and just let them open where they might. But what a great idea to take a book that was important and some point in your life and explore it again using writing to help do this.
    Stephen King says “If you don’t read, you can’t write”. So while we know that reading can be valuable even if we don’t write, I wonder if the reverse of this statement can be somewhat true and that our reading is enriched if we write. Thanks, Nik. Your posts always yet me thinking!


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