There are a number of scenes in the Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket where Klaus Baudelaire, who reads everything, must remember how to navigate boats, create traps and otherwise use the knowledge he has learned from reading.
Not the most subtile of messages, but hey, as writers and lovers of books, we can’t help believe that all that great information we consume daily will come into use someday, if only to allow us to show off during a tedious dinner party.
I came across this article that proves we should continue to flog our children with the merits of reading too much.
In a recent Publishers Weekly issue: the article Lonely Planet Guide Saves Lives of Three Boys, caught my eye.
Three Australian boys were suck in mud flats, one up to his waist, the other two had sunk into mud to their chins. I’ve been on the mud flats in Alaska, and apparently it’s not the sinking that is dangerous, what’s dangerous is not extracting yourself before the ferocious and fast tide roars in and you drown. (I did not read that).
Nine year old Vasco Gonsalves had just read the book Not-for-Parents: How to Be a World Explorer: Your All-Terrain Manual by Joel Levy and remembered the section on what to do in case you slip into quicksand.
“The book said to lean back and lift my legs and bring them up, roll over and swim back,” Vasco recalled. “And I got out and ran to tell my mum and the other mums and dads.”
I know how to use a fish fork because of what I’ve read. I know how to time travel, because of the books I consume. We probably are completely unaware of just how much information we acquire just by reading our favorite novels and non-fiction.
And yes, I probably read how to swim out of quick sand a couple of times, I just don’t if I have the presence of mind like our nine year old, to remember all the steps.
So when we write, we owe it to our readers to be accurate – you never know when you’ll save a life. Or embarrassment at dinner.