Analyses on the essay “The Books” in The Closing American Mind



“Teachers of writing in state universities, among the noblest and most despised laborers in the academy, have told me that they cannot teach writing to students who do not read, and that it is practically impossible to get them to read, let alone like it. This is where high schools have failed most, filled with teachers who are products of the sixties and reflecting the pallor of university-level humanities…”


It is oddly the same about our culture and high schools really need to be reorganized in terms of being the roots of university education. While reading that lines, my heart feels a full joy, remembering high school days. That is the taste of curiosity leading books and I newly reflect that I was telling myself over and over, “When I enter the university, the thing I will initially do is hugging the books I am able to find…”

But coming to university means more than that, it is a fact that you have time to do everything but there you face more ideas and books that you have expected, which ties your arms ready to hug what you find. It is really hard to get rid of the despair of what to read first and realizing that you should have your own judgement when u have a book in your hand, that means you firstly seek background knowledge and then you be ready  to read what you want to judge or make comments on.

The first problem is your background about the subject you are supposed to read, what if you are asked to evaluate it? I mean, there is time not to summarize but to criticize what you have read needs that you should know about that issue also at your culture. And these problems cannot be solved easily as you are given time to think about the subject not to create a path between your culture and the one you are reading about.

For example, while I was reading about American Literature, the first thing I faced is that “The Bible”, the source of early writings and has also been referred now. When I just notice the literary view of the holy book, I was shaken by the idea of “What about my book?”…It is hard to face, however I have never thought it as a literary book, of course it is holy and important in terms of religion.

The contemplations above make me compare two diminishing culture. While reading American literature, you can face Bible citation at anywhere, even I remember being thought about how to cite Bible in the course called “Research Paper”. Trying to think any reference to Quran between the pages of our literary books is hard to find. The opposite image appears, whenever I see anything related to Quran, that means the book is a religious one and written by a hodja not a person having a university degree or just to teach people about religion not a book like a novel or story. Seeing the decline of reading among university student, Bloom starts asking for the books students inspired by, and he is able to face sometimes the answer “the Bible”. In our society, the people who are interested in our holy book are either people from religious universities or good Muslims. Even we fail at the first pace, because we don’t know enough sentences or the true interpretations of them to cite, fail knowing where to use them.


There are also important books written by humanity in each society. Some cultures feed on the books born in it, however America is different. Here is a saying used by Bloom, “Americans are the readers, the whole world is their bookshelf”. He means America sees Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe as writers belonging to everybody. When we look at Turkey as a whole picture, we would see how native it is even lacks some images. We have crucial works throughout the history and invaluable people such as Rumi, Nasrettin Hodja ext. Even these people are placed at the bookshelf of America with their work. I had an opportunity once, joined an international meeting and made a friend called Bridgette. While we were speaking about Walt Whitman, actually I had a really hard time finding something to speak on. She asked me, “Do you know that Whitman was inspired by Rumi?” I did not have much to say… I also asked a question to myself whether there is a person who read the whole Mathnawi or not in my country.

We are best at using the names of our heroes in any place we are able to. Can that event be called “good stereotype”, just a name or more than that? We know they are important by heart, what about feeding our brain, learning their real value? There are also some misunderstandings not just lacking knowledge. For example, we see Nasrettin Hodja as an insane seem man telling jokes. We all know at least one of his anecdotes. While reading a book about meditation, I realized that the whole doctrine is associated with the jokes of Hodja. They all have such deep meanings that I was again shocked by what I was reading. We should have a bookshelf of our own first to reach a worldly one as America does.

Making comments on what is lacking is easier than walking through the garden of knowledge. Two cultures both lack sth. And that cannot be evaluated simply by the word “change” as these things can be called basics. After looking two holy books simultaneously, I see something; we are beyond the other culture about the distance to our literature in terms of religion. Another subject, we are first in relay race is our native books, the literature of our own which are generally known by worldly scholars such as the works of Rumi and Hodja as exemplified above. Do you think we can change the books name into “Closing Ottoman Mind” just for that essay? As to the best of my knowledge, we were at a really good degree in everything including literature once and we are faster going farther from the culture we were born in.