For the Love of Literature

Shel Silverstein´s The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, enjoyed by UMB Professor Shirley Suet-ling Tang and millions of others.

Shel Silverstein´s The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, enjoyed by UMB Professor Shirley Suet-ling Tang and millions of others.

MiMi Yeh

In college, reading for pleasure can become a bygone pastime. With the sheer volume of studying required of some of us, perusing the pages of the latest John Grisham thriller can become a luxury, available only to those willing to give up sleep. The books you do find time to read are often those that make the deepest impact on your psyche and stay with you forever.

Professors and students alike gathered to share their experiences with novels they were willing to give up sleep for. With Frances Darden moderating, Philosophy professor Ajume H. Wingo, Asian American and American Studies professor Shirley Suet-ling Tang, English major Erica Monteiro and political science major Fritz Hyppolite all talked about the books that made the biggest impact on them. Sponsored by the Black Student Center, this February 18 forum made me think deeply about my own favorite books.

From comic books to children’s books, the variety of responses was both impressive and enlightening. The Old Testament was one of the most often cited as having stories that drove the imagination and molded the various readers’ characters. It was interesting to see how even the most elementary fiction like Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece Meets the Big O could be as influential to some as the Bible.

Professor Wingo described himself as coming from a highly illiterate society. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t read. There are many things to read in nature and paintings. We just don’t read literature.” It was fascinating how even the word “reading” carried different connotations with some speakers. Wingo’s own loves included Treasure Island where he first encountered a song in a written form, admitting that he couldn’t stop singing, “Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest,” to the amusement of the audience.

In the age of Internet, television, and video games, it’s refreshing to see people come together even to laugh over something as simple as “Highlights,” a children’s magazine that most of the attendees were fondly familiar with. “Highlights” is a monthly publication filled with puzzles and stories geared toward those just learning to read.

Professor Tang mentioned her own favorites such as Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham and an anthology of women writers called The Bridge Called My Back. She uses The Missing Piece Meets the Big O “to help young people realize you’re always looking for that missing piece, that significant other.”

One of my personal favorites was an entire series titled “Choose Your Own Adventure.” The reader was the subject of the stories, being put into a situation and then given choices as to what action to take, where each action corresponded to a page number. I owned or read the first hundred or so of them, and I finally had to set aside two shelves out of my bookcase just for them. A book that made me rethink the value of independence was The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, a novel of boxing and apartheid in South Africa, as well as one young man’s exploration of himself. To avoid being accused of forgetting some of the masters, I might add Edgar Allen Poe and William Shakespeare’s works both occupy a revered place on my many shelves.

UMB is a vital campus with any number of energetic students pursuing degrees, causes, and dreams. Future events like these would be a welcome opportunity to sit back, relax, and take a little time to appreciate one of the simpler pleasures of life.