[guest post by Alex Murphy]
While we're on the subject of study, here's one of the only examples I have where a parenting idea paid off. In spades. (thanks, Alex, for letting me steal an excerpt from your college application essay).
Alex, the summer after I paid him to read,
now buying books with his own cash.
When I was fourteen, my mother paid me to read. As a kid, I always did well in school, but I never did anything mentally stimulating outside it; during my summer breaks I made somewhat of a ritual of television and junk food. One day my mom interrupted my Lucky Charm liturgy to propose her plan to me. She provided me a catalogue of all the works she would pay me to read and their values. It was devious, really; here she had a kid with unchecked potential, a largely undeveloped mind, and a penchant for earning money, and she knew how to use that. $5 for Fahrenheit 451, $10 for Moby Dick, $20 for the Old Testament; how could I refuse? I read all summer, and—to my mother’s delight—my desire for money was quickly eclipsed by my desire for the means of making it (although I never quite forgot the pay). Before I realized it, I was a voracious reader, as consumptive as the dragons and demagogues I was reading about.
Many people like a good story, but fewer hit the books to savor the technique of their expression, yet I found the latter to be my chief motivation. I love words; I love language. I have, since that seminal summer, been fixated with the way that writers choose to delineate their thoughts; with what words they use; and with the way that one can express a dozen ideas in a single sentence, if the language is used to its highest efficacy.
The full realization of my interest came to me among the pages of my still-favorite book, The Lord of the Rings. In Tolkien’s writing were realized all of my literary loves; he employs beautiful cadence and a lovely array of words, all used to tell great stories. But it was not until I read the works of his friend C.S. Lewis that my pleasures were given purpose. Lewis was a master orator, capable of conveying lucid, cogent, truths in a manner so thoroughly incisive that he could compel a cat to bark. He used the art of language to promote truth, and that galvanized something in me. I realized that I want to do the same. I became—and still am—passionate about delineating and defending those beliefs I hold steadfastly, whether it is through public speech or written word.