The Story

In my freshman year at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, I took a poetry class with Joseph Brodsky. Brodksy was a genius. I think he must have had a photographic memory, because, even in English, his common speech was akin to someone reading the dictionary – I took more notes on vocabulary words to look up than I did on poetry. My Russian could never be that good even if I studied every day for the rest of my life. Shortly after the class began, he passed out a handwritten list of books that he said every person should have read in order to have a basic conversation. At the time I was thinking, ‘Conversation about what?’ I knew I’d never be able to have a conversation with him, because I never thought I’d ever get through the list. Now that I’ve had a little living, I understand what he was talking about. Intelligent conversation is good. In fact, maybe we all need a little more.

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