excerpt from Lend Me Your Ear continued…
As it turns out, this plowing was what saved her when that fall she found herself in the cavernous intro to psych lecture hall with some three hundred other students—thankful that her name alphabetically allowed her to sit near the front, but still yearning to be an A so she could optimize the lecture from the choicest chair.

And she read. She bought or checked out a dozen more texts on psychology, biology, the skills of writing an essay. She took copious notes from each of them, recorded and memorized key vocabulary from them, read over those notes and her own in-class lecture notes (which she didn’t trust) carefully each week, adding notes on top of those notes.

She spent most of her freshman year in the all-girl dorm holed up in her room, writing, reading, taking notes, passing. She went swimming—a silent, individual sport—for a “social” life. After that first frightful year of college it got better. The initial panic of failing, of being found out, subsided. She even skipped class now and then, forgot to study scrupulously for each and every test. She still passed quite well. She took a job—a safe one—lifeguarding in a tall, antisocial chair at the university pool on nights and weekends. She kept writing and reading, but now found her interests were far beyond ingesting college textbooks and taking careful notes; outside of her homework, she started working her way through Russian literature (don’t ask me why) and writing short stories.

She avoided bars and parties—sooner or later a young man would come slosh a beer on her, ask her something, and not having heard him, but not wanting to appear any of those dreaded things, she would just nod “yes.” It was not always the answer she meant to give.

Books were far easier to control. When she didn’t understand a text, it didn’t seem to mind her asking for a repeat. She could stare hard, be aloof, acquiesce without embarrassing consequences, speak out of turn, and question a book again and again. It didn’t seem to mind. She wasn’t deaf when she was reading or writing. In fact, she came to realize that we are all quite deaf when we read or write—engaged in a signing system that is not oral/aural and is removed from the present.

How many times must she have written—to herself or to someone else—“it’s easier for me to write this than it is to say it; I find the words easier on paper.” On paper she didn’t sound deaf, she could be someone other than herself—an artificer (thus fulfilling Plato’s worst nightmare about the rhetorical potential in writing). On paper she passed.

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