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大学英语精读:第六册 UNIT 4

2007-03-02 16:03   来源:旺旺英语       我要纠错 | 打印 | 收藏 | | |

  As a black boy growing up in America in the early 1900s, Richard Wright knew well the meaning of racial prejudice. He was not allowed to play in a park or borrow books from a library. While working as an office boy in a bank, though, he found a way into the library and discovered the power of the written word. In the following story, Richard Wright tells us how his thirst for books grew with each passing day and what changes took place in him as he did more and more reading.

THE LIBRARY CARD

Richard Wright

  One morning I arrived early at work and went into the bank lobby where the Negro porter was mopping. I stood at a counter and picked up the Memphis Commercial Appeal and began my free reading of the press. I came finally to the editorial page and saw an article dealing with one H. L. Mencken. I knew by hearsay that he was the editor of the American Mercury, but aside from that I knew nothing about him. The article was a furious denunciation of Mencken, concluding with one, hot, short sentence: Mencken is a fool.

  I wondered what on earth this Mencken had done to call down upon him the scorn of the South. The only people I had ever heard enounced in the South were Negroes, and this man was not a Negro. Then what ideas did Mencken hold that made a newspaper like the Commercial Appeal castigate him publicly? Undoubtedly he must be advocating ideas that the South did not like.

  Now, how could I find out about this Mencken? There was a huge library near the riverfront, but I knew that Negroes were not allowed to patronize its shelves any more than they were the parks and playgrounds of the city. I had gone into the library several times to get books for the white men on the job. Which of them would now help me to get books?

  I weighed the personalities of the men on the job. There was Don, a Jew; but I distrusted him. His position was not much better than mine and I knew that he was uneasy and insecure; he had always treated me in an offhand, bantering way that barely concealed his contempt. I was afraid to ask him to help me to get books; his frantic desire to demonstrate a racial solidarity with the whites against Negroes might make him betray me.

  Then how about the boss? No, he was a Baptist and I had the suspicion that he would not be quite able to comprehend why a black boy would want to read Mencken. There were other white men on the job whose attitudes showed clearly that they were Kluxers or sympathizers, and they were out of the question.

  There remained only one man whose attitude did not fit into an anti-Negro category, for I had heard the white men refer to him as "Pope lover". He was an Irish Catholic and was hated by the white Southerners. I knew that he read books, because I had got him volumes from the library several times. Since he, too, was an object of hatred, I felt that he might refuse me but would hardly betray me. I hesitated, weighing and balancing the imponderable realities.

  One morning I paused before the Catholic fellow's desk.

  "I want to ask you a favor," I whispered to him.

  "What is it?"

  "I want to read. I can't get books from the library. I wonder if you'd let me use your card?"

  He looked at me suspiciously.

  "My card is full most of the time," he said.

  "I see," I said and waited, posing my question silently.

  "You're not trying to get me into trouble, are you, boy?" he asked, staring at me.

  "Oh, no, sir."

  "What book do you want?"

  "A book by H. L. Mencken."

  "Which one?"

  "I don't know. Has he written more than one?"

  "He has written several."

  "I didn't know that."

  "What makes you want to read Mencken?"

  "Oh, I just saw his name in the newspaper," I said.

  "It's good of you to want to read," he said. "But you ought to read the right things."

  I said nothing. Would he want to supervise my reading?

  "Let me think," he said. "I'll figure out something."

  I turned from him and he called me back. He stared at me quizzically.

  "Richard, don't mention his to the other white men," he said.

  "I understand," I said. "I won't say a word."

  A few days later he called me to him.

  "I've got a card in my wife's name," he said. "Here's mine."

  "Thank you, sir."

  "Do you think you can manage it?"

  "I'll manage fine," I said.

  "If they suspect you, you'll get in trouble," he said.

  "I'll write the same kind of notes to the library that you wrote when you sent me for books," I told him. "I'll sign your name."

  He laughed.

  "Go ahead. Let me see what you get," he said.

  That afternoon I addressed myself to forging a note. Now, what were the name of books written by H. L. Mencken? I did not know any of them. I finally wrote what I thought would be a foolproof note: Dear Madam: Will you please let this nigger boy —— I used the word "nigger" to make the librarian feel that I could not possibly be the author of the note —— have some books by H.L. Mecken? I forged the white man's name.

  I entered the library as I had always done when on errands for whites, but I felt that I would somehow slip up and betray myself. I doffed my hat, stood a respectful distance from the desk, looked as unbookish as possible, and waited for the white patrons to be taken care of. When the desk was clear of people, I still waited.

  The white librarian looked at me.

  "What do you want, boy?"

  As though I did not possess the power of speech, I stepped forward and simply handed her the forged note, not parting my lips.

  "What books by Mencken does he want?" She asked.

  "I don't know, ma'am," I said, avoiding her eyes.

  "Who gave you this card?"

  "Mr. Falk," I said.

  "Where is he?"

  "He's at work, at M —— Optical Company," I said. "I've been in here for him before."

  "I remember," the woman said. "But he never wrote notes like this."

  Oh, God, she's suspicious. Perhaps she would not let me have the books? If she had turned her back at that moment, I would have ducked out the door and never gone back. Then I thought of a bold idea.

  "You can call him up, ma'am," I said, my heart pounding.

  "You're not using these books, are you?" she asked pointedly.

  "Oh, no, ma'am. I can't read."

  "I don't know what he wants by Mencken," she said under her breath.

  I knew now that I had non; she was thinking of other things and the race question had gone out of her mind. She went to the shelves. Once or twice she looked over her shoulder at me, as though she was still doubtful. Finally she came forward with two books in her hand.

  "I'm sending him two books," she said. "But tell Mr. Falk to come in next time, or send me the names of the books he wants. I don't know what he wants to read."

  I said nothing. She stamped the card and handed me the books. Not daring to glance at them. I went out of the library, fearing that the woman would call me back for further questioning. A block away from the library I opened one of the books and read a title: A Book of Prefaces. I was nearing my nineteenth birthday and I did not know how to pronounce the word "preface". I thumbed the pages and saw strange words and strange names. I shook my head, disappointed. I looked at the other book; it was called Prejudices, I knew what that word meant; I had heard it all my life. And right off I was on guard against Mencken's books. Why would a man want to call a book Prejudices? The word was so stained with all my memories of racial hate that I cold not conceive of anybody using it for a title. Perhaps I had made a mistake about Mencken? A man who had prejudices must be wrong.

  When I showed the books to Mr. Falk, he looked at me and frowned.

  "That librarian might telephone you," I warned him.

  "That's all right," he said. "But when you're through reading those books, I want you to tell me what you get out of them."

  That night in my rented room, while letting the hot water run over my can of pork and beans in the sink, I opened A Book of Preface and began to read. I was jarred and shocked by the style, the clear, clean, sweeping sentences. Why did he write like that? And how did one write like that? I pictured the man as a raging demon, slashing with his pen, consumed with hate, denouncing everything American, extolling everything European or German, laughing at the weaknesses of people, mocking God, authority. What was this? I stood up, trying to realize what reality lay behind the meaning of the words … Yes, this man was fighting, fighting with words. He was using words as a weapon, using them as one would use a club. Could words be weapons? Well, yes, for there they were. Then, maybe, perhaps, I could use them as a weapon? No. It frightened me. I read on and what amazed me was not what he said, but how on earth anybody had the courage to say it.

  I ran across many words whose meanings I did not know, and either looked them up in a dictionary or, before I had a chance to do that, encountered the word in a context that made its meaning clear. But what strange world was this? I concluded the book with the conviction that I had somehow overlooked something terribly important in life. I had once tried to write, had once reveled in feeling, had let my crude imagination roam, but the impulse to dream had been slowly beaten out of me by experience. Now it surged up again and I hungered for books, new ways of looking and seeing. It was not a matter of believing or disbelieving what I read, but of feeling something new, of being affected by something that made the look of the world different.

  I forget more notes and my trips to the library became frequent. Reading grew into a passion. My first serious novel was Sinclair Lewis's Main Street. It made me see my boss, Mr. Gerald, and identify him as an American type. I would smile when I saw him lugging his golf bags into the office. I had always felt a vast distance separating me from the boss, and now I felt closer to him, though still distant. I felt now that I knew him, that I could feel the very limits of his narrow life. And this had happened because I had read a novel about a mythical man called George F. Babbitt.

  I read Dreiser's Jennie Gerhardt and Sister Carrie and they revived in me a vivid sense of my mother's suffering; I was overwhelmed. I grew silent, wondering about the life around me. It would have been impossible for me to have told anyone what I derived from these novels, for it was nothing less than a sense of life itself. All my life had shaped me for the realism, the naturalism of the modern novel, and I could not read enough of them.

  Steeped in new moods and ideas, I bought a ream of paper and tried to write; but nothing would come, or what did come was flat beyond telling. I discovered that more than desire and felling were necessary to write and I dropped the idea. Yet I still wondered how it was possible to know people sufficiently to write about them? Could I ever learn about life and people? To me, with my vast ignorance, my Jim Crow station in life, it seemed a task impossible of achievement. I now knew what being a Negro meant. I could endure the hunger. I had learned to live with hate. But to feel that there were feelings denied me, that the very breath of life itself was beyond my reach, that more than anything else hurt, wounded me. I had a new hunger.

  New Words

  lobby

  n.  entrance hall 门廊,门厅

  porter

  n.  an employee who sweeps, cleans, does errands, etc. as in a bank, store, or restaurant 勤杂工

  mop

  vt. wash or wipe up; clean with a mop 擦;用拖把擦洗

  commercial

  a.  having to do with business

  hearsay

  n.  information or new heard from another person 传闻

  furious

  a.  extremely angry; violent

  denunciation

  n.  the act of denouncing; condemnation 谴责,痛斥

  scorn

  n.  strong disrespect; contempt 鄙视,轻蔑

  denounce

  vt. criticize severely and publicly

  castigate

  vt. criticize severely

  riverfront

  n.  the part of a city or town on or near a river or harbor area

  patronize

  vt. be a regular customer, reader, etc. of; give regular business to

  insecure

  a.  anxious and unsure of oneself; not confident

  offhand

  a.  careless or disrespectful in manner; casual

  banter

  vi. talk in a joking way

  contempt

  n.  a feeling that sth. is of little value or worthless; scorn 轻视,轻蔑

  solidarity

  n.  agreement of interests, aims, or standards

  Baptist

  n.  浸礼会教徒

  comprehend

  vt. understand

  Kluxer

  n.  a member of the Ku Klux Klan 三K党成员

  sympathizer

  n.  a person who sympathizes with another persons or is favorably inclined toward a particular belief

  anti-

  prefix    against; opposed to

  refer(to)

  vi. mention or speak about

  pope

  n.  head of the Roman Catholic Church(罗马天主教的)教皇

  lover

  n.  one who is in love with sb. or sth.

  southerner

  n.  a person from a southern region

  imponderable

  a.  unable to be weighed or assessed

  suspiciously

  ad. distrustfully

  pose

  vt. put forward fro discussion; state

  supervise

  vt. keep watch over( work or workers) as the person in charge

  forge

  vt. make or write(sth. false) to deceive

  foolproof

  a.  that can not go wrong

  nigger

  n.  (derogatory) a Negro

  errand

  n.  a short journey made to get sth. or carry a message

  doff

  vt. take off

  respectful

  a.  having or showing respect

  unbookish

  a.  not inclined to read and study

  patron

  n.  a person who uses a particular shop, hotel, etc, esp. regularly

  optical

  a.  of or relating to light or the sense of light 光学的;视力的

  suspicious

  a.  causing one to suspect; deserving or exciting suspicion

  suspicion

  n.

  duck

  vt. try to escape by hiding quickly 闪避

  hold

  a.  showing or needing courage

  pointedly

  ad. in such a way as to make some meaning, reference or application quite unmistakable

  doubtful

  a.  having, showing or causing doubt

  title

  n.  a name given to a book, painting, play, etc.

  thumb

  vi. turn pages of (a book, etc.) rapidly with a thumb, reading only portions

  frown

  vi. draw the brows together in deep thought, anger or disapproval

  pork

  n.  meat from pigs

  bean

  n.  a rounded seed of a plant related to peas 豆

  jar

  vt. have a harsh, unpleasant effect on; shock

  sweeping

  a.  forceful; comprehensive and wide-ranging

  raging

  a.  violent; furious

  rage

  vi. be furious with anger; act violently

  demon

  n.  an evil spirit

  slash

  vt. cut with a sweeping stroke of a sword, knife or whip

  extol

  vt. praise highly

  mock

  vt. laugh at; make fun of; ridicule

  reality

  n.  the condition or quality of being real; the state of things as they are

  weapon

  n.  an instrument used to attack another or defend oneself from attack

  club

  n.  a heavy stick with one thick end, use as a weapon

  conviction

  n.  a strong feeling or belief about sth.

  revel

  vi. take very great pleasure(in)

  crude

  a.  in a natural or raw state; unrefined

  surge

  vi. rise or swell with great force

  hunger

  vi. have a strong desire or craving

  disbelieve

  vt. refuse to believe

  novel

  n.  a long story about fictitious people and events

  lug

  vt. pull along or carry with effort; drag

  golf

  n.  a game played by hitting a small, hard ball with one of a set of clubs around an outdoor course into a series of holes in as few strokes as possible 高尔夫球

  mythical

  a.  not real; imaginary

  myth

  n.  a story that expresses the beliefs and values of a people 神话

  revive

  vt. bring back to life or consciousness

  vivid

  a.  active, lively

  naturalism

  n.  the showing in art, and literature, of the world and people scientifically and exactly as they are 自然主义

  mood

  n.  the way sb. feels at a certain time 心境,情绪

  ream

  n.  480 or 500 sheets of paper of the same size and quality 令

  sufficiently

  ad. in a sufficient manner or to a sufficient degree

  sufficient

  a.  as much as is needed; enough

  ignorance

  n.  the condition of being ignorant; lack of knowledge

  Jim Crow

  discriminating against Negroes; for blacks only

  Phrases & Expressions

  aside from

  except for; in addition to

  on earth

  of all possible things; ever (use. used for emphasis after words that ask question)

  call down

  summon; evoke (sth. upon sb.)

  out of the question

  not worth considering; impossible

  fit into

  belong to; be appropriate to

  refer to

  mention; allude to

  address oneself to

  give one's full attention to; tackle

  on errands

  making a short trip to do or get sth. for sb.

  slip up

  make a mistake

  be clear of

  be a safe distance away from; free from

  call up

  call on the telephone

  under one's breath

  in a whisper

  right off

  at once; immediately

  be through

  have reached the end of; be finished with; be done with

  run across

  find or meet by chance

  look up

  search for, hunt information about in a dictionary

  surge up

  rise up in a wave

  hunger up

  rise up in a wave

  nothing less than

  nothing short of

  beyond one's reach

  not capable of being had or got to

  Proper Names

  Richard Wright

  理查德.赖特

  Memphis

  孟菲斯

  Commercial Appeal

  《商业呼声报》

  H.L. Mencken

  H.L. 门肯

  Don

  唐

  A Book of Prefaces

  《序言集》

  Prejudices

  《偏见》

  Sinclair Lewis

  辛克莱.刘易斯

  Main Street

  《大街》

  Gerald

  杰拉尔德

  George F. Babbitt

  乔治.F.巴比特

  Dreiser

  德莱塞

  Jennie Gerhardt

  珍尼.格哈特

  Sister Carrie

  《嘉莉妹妹》

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