Literature Abuse: America’s Hidden Problem

I’ve had this in my “Share” folder since 1999. I did NOT write it. (The e-mail came through a listserv; I don’t know who the original author is, so I cannot properly credit him/her.) I’ll post the self-test tomorrow.


Once a relatively rare disorder, Literature Abuse, or LA, has risen to
new levels due to the accessibility of higher education and increased
college enrollment since the end of the Second World War. The number of
literature abusers is currently at record levels.


Abusers become withdrawn, uninterested in society or normal
relationships. They fantasize, creating alternative worlds to occupy, to
the neglect of friends and family.

In severe cases they develop bad posture from reading in awkward
positions or carrying heavy book bags. In the worst instances, they
become cranky reference librarians in small towns.

Excessive reading during pregnancy is perhaps the number one cause of
moral deformity among the children of English professors, teachers of
English and creative writing. Known as Fetal Fiction Syndrome, this
disease also leaves its victims prone to a lifetime of nearsightedness,
daydreaming and emotional instability.


It has been established that heredity plays a considerable role in
determining whether a person will become an abuser of literature. Most
abusers have at least one parent who abused literature, often beginning
at an early age and progressing into adulthood. Many spouses of an
abuser become abusers themselves.


Fathers or mothers who are English teachers, professors, or heavy
fiction readers; parents who do not encourage children to play games,
participate in healthy sports, or watch television in the evening.


Pre-marital screening and counseling, referral to adoption agencies in
order to break the chain of abuse. English teachers in particular
should seek partners active in other fields. Children should be
encouraged to seek physical activity, and to avoid isolation and morbid


Within the sordid world of literature abuse, the lowest circle belongs
to those sufferers who have thrown their lives and hopes away to study
literature in our colleges. Parents should look for signs that their
children are taking the wrong path-don’t expect your teenager to
approach you and say, “I can’t stop reading Spencer.” By the time you
visit her dorm room and find the secret stash of the Paris Review, it
may already be too late.

Photo woman hugging books crying
Photo credit: Kroty

What to do if you suspect your child is becoming an English major:

1. Talk to your child in a loving way. Show your concern. Let her
know you won’t abandon her – but that you aren’t spending a hundred grand to put her through Stanford so she can clerk at Waldenbooks, either. But remember that she may not be able to make a decision without help; perhaps she has just finished Madame Bovary and is dying of arsenic poisoning.

2. Face the issue: Tell her what you know, and how: “I found this book
in your purse. How long has this been going on?” Ask the hard
question – “Who is this Count Vronsky?”

3. Show her another way. Move the television set into her room.
Praise her brother, the engineer. Introduce her to frat boys.

4. Do what you have to do. Tear up her library card. Make her stop
signing her letters as “Emma.” Force her to take a math class, or minor
in Spanish. Transfer her to a Florida college.

You may be dealing with a life-threatening problem if one or more of the
following applies:

* She can tell you how and when Thomas Chatterton died.
* She names one or more of her cats after a Romantic poet.
* Next to her bed is a picture of: Lord Byron, Virginia Woolf,
Faulkner, or any scene from the Lake District.


Most important, remember, you are not alone. To seek help for yourself
or someone you love, contact the nearest chapter of the American
Literature Abuse Society, or look under ALAS in your telephone

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