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Jonathan Lovell Channels John Keats While Reading “Reign of Error”

 

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Posted by dianerav September 29, 2013

Jonathan Lovell teaches writing at San Jose State in California. A few weeks ago, he sent me a couplet from Alexander Pope to steel me when angry critics lash out. These were the lines:

“Yes, I am proud; I must be proud to see
Men, not afraid of God, afraid of me.”

I met Jonathan in Berkeley last week and signed his book. He wrote a few days later that he had been reading the book aloud to his wife, a practice they both enjoyed, reading and discussing. And he sent this note:

I’ve been searching my mind for a way to adequately describe the impact of listening to this book read aloud, slowly, chapter by chapter.

Here’s the best analogy I could summon, with the gravest of apologies to John Keats:

On First Looking into Ravitch’s *Reign of Error*

Much have I travell’d in education’s realm
And men like Cremin hold in high esteem.
Round many an author have I plied my helm,
And some have made me weep, and others, dream.
But of a wide expanse had I been told
Which one called Ravitch held with sway supreme.
Some travell’d there, its wonders to behold,
And many found their thinking newly clean.

Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Error speak out loud and bold;
Then felt I like some watcher in the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like Balboa, when with eagle eyes,
He stared at the Pacific. Just so your fans
Now view each other with a wild surmise,
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

With both affection and regard,
Jonathan

Can there be any greater reward for a writer than such a response? I think not.

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2 replies

  1. I changed the Keats’ rhyme of “men” with “Darien” at the end of his poem to “fans” and “Darien” because I enjoyed thinking of the wives of several prominent corporate types, living in Darien CT, having read “Reign of Error” in their somewhat subversive bookclub and ascending a local hilltop in speechless wonder. I suppose stranger things have happened, so why not that?

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