Monday, December 22, 2008

I'm an opsimath


I first saw this word in this lovely little book I am reading by the wonderful Alan Bennett (that's him in the photo). The book is called The Uncommon Reader and it's about Her Majesty the Queen becoming a reader. I don't want to tell you too much about it because if you then went and bought it (ha, like you'd go and buy a book on my say-so) you wouldn't want me to give the whole plot away here. Oh, okay then - HM joins the local mobile library, gets the reading bug but people are not happy that she does this. An opsimath is how the Queen describes herself in the book - somebody who begins to learn things late in life.

I think learning new things late in life is very important because you've got to keep your brain active somehow. The same things we think about day in day out are all much of a muchness - what shall I wear today; what shall I cook today; I wonder what's on television - and we need to keep those neurons lit up somehow. So, if you want to read a good little book which is very cheap in the scheme of things - and it is a little book, small in size with only 124 pages - then this comes really recommended by me.

I do love the way Alan Bennett writes. He's come to a lot of people's attention in the last few years with his excellent play The History Boys, but there is far more to him than that. He's what you call a National Treasure.

29 comments:

Henry the Dog said...

Thanks French Fancy - my mum is looking for books to take on holiday with her in February - think she just might go for that one. She's not into hugely big reads at the mo. I reckon my mum is one of those opsi things too. Wheyhey... I've learnt a new word! I can't say it yet, but at least I know what it means. You're a clever lass aren't you?

French Fancy said...

It's not a very big read - in fact someone other than me (who reads really slowly and who sometimes re-reads paragraphs because they sound so nice) could finish it in an hour or two. It's a half-size book - the size of a card envelope. I think that's called C5 size. I'm not clever by the way-I'm just curious and want to know so much more than I do.

Where's your mum off to?

Mama said...

Hi FF, The Queen going to a mobile library that's funny!, While sitting eating my Turkey and watching her on the TV on Christmas Day, I often wondered if one had Christmas crackers and wore ones hat!.
I am off to get this book, sounds excellent and being a fellow opsimath, I am flattered I am in such good company yourself and her majesty :)

Lane said...

Opsimath. What a great new word.

I read AB's Untold Stories earlier this year and loved it. He has a wonderful dry humour. Will have to read this one too.

Mama said...

ps, we have other books in common! TFL and Bouchon and I have followed the blog too, even left the odd comment, she has moved on to 'cook the Bouchon book'! now. I think I could probably master the Croque Madame!. I just like looking at the pictures. oh and thanks for the Georgian xmas wishes :) I have "Jane Austen's Christmas" on my santa wish list (but it has mixed reviews). Have fun, glad your cough is almost gone, hugs, Kathy.

Brother Tobias said...

I agree about Bennett. I became a complete fan after 'Talking Heads', which punched so much above it's weight. A great man.

Steve said...

Speaking as someone who is about to complete their English degree at 40 I definitely concour that later life learning keeps your brain fit and trim. It also keeps you abreast of new slang words and drug speak... which I'm sure will have a use one day!

lady jicky said...

I will look out for this book. sometimes you do not want a huge book to read!

willow said...

Interesting sounding book. And opsimath is a great new word!

laurie said...

oh, i loved this novella! loved it!

i read it when it first appeared in the London Review of Books two years ago and read it again this fall when it came out as a book. it's wonderful!

nikkicrumpet said...

I agree...as we get older...brain exercise is so important. I think blogging is helping my brain...last week I actually remembered my name!

Blu said...

I think as long as you are curious it doesnt matter what age you are. When I was a child apparantly I constantly asked WHY?.

Why not that is what I think.

Henry the Dog said...

FF - mum's off to Singapore and Malaysia. Her and Uncle Hugh haven't been on a proper holiday for quite some time because they enjoyed settling into France too much but they decided to do something this February 'cause mum gets a bit 'down' in the winter months x

LadyFi said...

Thanks for the tip! Bennett is indeed a national treasure as is HM, I imagine - or is she a National Institution? The book sounds very funny and readable.

French Fancy said...

Mama - hello :). You must tell me what you ate at Bouchon. I love knowing things people wear and eat - I wonder what that says about me. I bet the queen has a paper hat and pulls a cracker or two. I'm sure she is a traditionalist. Alan Bennett has really got 'her voice' in the book (as last year's tutor kept banging on about - look at the voice the author is assuming, she kept saying. I see it so much in Bennett -hark at me sounding like a scholar!) - there, I put a cheesy exclamation mark in because they are meant to be naff these days).

Lane -it is a lovely word. I'm especially fond of three-syllable words for some reason. I love finding new words in books I am enjoying - so much better than just learning new ones by letting the dictionary fall open.

Untold Stories and Writing Home are on their way to me as we speak right here, right now. I went mad and ordered lots of books on Monday-you know, the sort you see in Book Review of the Year from one of the broadsheets. Although one of them is 'Julius Winsome' which I think might upset me too much but it was too late to cancel once I'd had second thoughts. That is the worst thing of being out here - not having a library containing the books I would like to read.

Kathy again (I do this too- pop in and out of blogs all the time. It's like chatting with a friend) I also love the pictures in big fancy chef books - the FL book is fabulous for that. I'm really going to try some of the recipes next year- although I'll have to buy some new equipment first. I might take some shortcuts though - I can't see me sieving something eight times.

French Fancy said...

I had to begin again else it would have been the biggest reply in the world.

BroTob - I knew somehow, just knew you would also be an admirer. I've seen AB occasionally around Regents Park and smiled at him but he seemed in a world of his own (or just has learnt to avoid eye contact with a potential fan droning on)

Steve- now you I am jealous of. It's all very well me being a mature student via the OU but there is nothing like being a Proper Student. I would so love to be one (even though I am ten years older than you) - and have rag week and get drunk, have a fling with a don - you know, the usual sort of studenty thing.

ladyj - hello down under. It's a lovely tiny book that is endearing.

willow - I think you would love it.

Laurie - that's it - that's the word; novella. Yes, indeed, it's a novella. Isn't it wonderful. Some of his sentences are written in such an unusual way that you wouldn't think they would work but they do. I find myself analysing his style whilst reading it - that is the downside of last year's lit crit OU course.

nikki - Blogging is definitely an aid to keeping sharp - or so I tell Mr FF all the time.

Blu - you are still very curious about things, I can tell from the lovely photos you take. You see things I wouldn't even notice.

Henry - how fabulous for them both. Utterly marvellous - I've never been to either place and would love to go. And it's the best time of year for that particular climate - i just know she will love it. Will you be going to Claire (that is your 'minder's' name, isn't it?)

LadyFi - Read it, you'll enjoy it and it will be over before you know it.

Henry the Dog said...

No, Claire is the lady who clips me. I'll be going to Jame & Jane's place. But I think they're online now so I should be able to keep up with my blog;)

French Fancy said...

Oh good, I'd hate not to know how you were getting on.

My old blue shirt has gone now - it's a good feeling

jenny smith said...

my dear FF, I read the Uncommon Reader this year and it is wonderful, poignant and sad, as you have found out. I was so glad that creepy Sir Kevin lost his job.

Alan Bennett hits and misses with me but when he hits, he really hits.

hope you have a nice christmas xxxxx

Larry M. Brow said...

I'd never heard of a "cheesy exclamation point" before, but I have a thing about exclamation points. I had a boss who liked to use a lot of them, hoping to add excitement and emphasis. I tried to get her to cut back on them by asking her why she was shouting at her customers. Too much shouting as it is, with burdening our friends with more.

As to "opsimath," I've just finished two more courses towards a Master's degree at age fifty, so, as we knew before, we're in good company.

Larry

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

That is one of my most favorite books of last year! Isn't it wonderful???

Hadriana's Treasures said...

My best friend loves AB. I try to buy her AB things and have given up as she always has them already. I'd love to call her an opsimath to see if she knows what I'm talking about. If she did she'd apply it to me...because I am, I do!

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year. I also noticed that you read Mario Vargas Llosa as well. I did him for my degree so to speak. One of these days I must re-read his stuff!

cheshire wife said...

Thank you for the tip. Sounds like my sort of book as I am only a slow reader and I have learnt a new word - opsimath.

Happy Christmas.

The Dotterel said...

Anything by Alan Bennett is usually worth reading - entertaining and moving at the same time. A rare skill!

Cynthia said...

I don't think you learn the same way when your older, so I think the term "opsimath" for being a late learner in life is an oximoron. You cannot learn late because you continue to learn even if you don't go to university. Your life experience influences the way you see the information and creates a richer depth of knowledge. My mother got her BA at fifty and I'm about to get my PhD at the same age. Though I haven't read the book (I will when I can), I think the queen took control of the information she was receiving and that created some "Queen management problems". Is that what her advisors were worried about?

Lee said...

He's got a list, he's checked it twice...A very Merry Christmas to you and your family.

French Fancy said...

jenny - glad you enjoyed it too. I hope your Christmas - especially now you've got the kids' presents you've been searching for - is wonderful and harmonious.

Larry - yes, apparently exclamation marks are a 'no-no', but they are so tempting to use. Congratulations at also being an opsimath - we are in good company indeed.

Pamela Terry and Edward (you should be an act with a name like that - it's great). hello to you. Glad we share the Bennett Love.

Hadriana- if she is anything like me she will forget the word the minute she has finished the book - although now that I've mentioned it here it might stay in my mind a bit longer than usual. Fancy doing Vargas Llosa for your degree - he is such a glamorous figure to me. Brains, charm and very suave and dashing.

Hello Dotterel - just think, it's the end of the year and you've become a published author. What an achievement -

Cynthia - you do sound clever. I don't think my 'life learning' is the same as the 'brain learning' I'm currently doing. I feel different anyway, I think differently since I've been a student and I now question everything I read, wondering what agenda the person I am reading has.

Lee, the same to you down under. Fancy having a hot sunny Christmas it's wrong you know :)

cheshire - I'm also slow when I read for pleasure; when I read my OU stuff I sort of scan quickly and then read bits and pieces at a snail's pace hoping it will seep into my crevices - and stay there.

French Fancy said...

(cheshire wife - I don't know why you ended up last there - I did it in the right order, how weird is that)