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I’ve had an ambition all my adult life I never addressed effectively before yesterday: at the library I borrowed a pair of Horatio Alger novels. I’ve heard about them since grade school, everyone knows what they are, what they mean; but does anyone anymore actually ever read one? Did the grammar school teacher who summarized them for us actually read one? or was she too just passing on unexamined reputation?
Alger is famous for writing about poor but honest hardworking boys who wind up rich respectable gentlemen. But somewhere I’d heard a bit more detail about one, and smelled a rat. The boy was poor and hardworing, but it wasn’t his hard work that earned him his wealth or ease; at the end the poor boy is discovered to be the long lost heir to Miss Havisham, or to Andrew Carnegie. It isn’t that the culture sees the industrious rise; it’s God who sees the honest industrious lad and magically raises him.
It’s a different kind of causality altogether: it’s magic, not industry: religion, not science. It isn’t a meritocracy; feudal primogeniture is being palmed as meritocracy.
I’m reading Ragged Dick. I’ve stated before that I like to write half-cocked, to predict reactions based on fragmentary evidence. There: I’m doing so again now. I’ll read further and report back.
2011 12 13 I don’t know when I’ll actually finishing reading even one of these novels: but I will, I’m determined.