A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Saturday Shorts Week 39
Welcome to our weekend series for 2014. Every Saturday this year one of our staff will suggest a favorite short story from the library’s collection, all of them a great choice for quick weekend reading.
Whatever falls out contrary to custom we say is contrary to nature, but nothing, whatever it be, is contrary to her. Let, therefore, this universal and natural reason expel the error and astonishment that novelty brings along with it.
I love Montaigne. When I was getting my Philosophy degree he was a reminder that the subject wasn’t all academic buzz words and pedantic snark. Philosophy could be broad, bold, maybe even fun, and Montaigne was proof.
My favorite of his pieces read more like some friend’s oft-repeated anecdotes than essays—“Of the Custom of Wearing Clothes” and “Of Thumbs” are a couple that immediately come to mind. But “Of a Monstrous Child” is the one that sticks with me the most for some reason.
Montaigne starts with an unpleasant little story. A child with a birth defect is displayed for money by his seedy parents. Next, Montaigne gives us a short lecture about the real value of anomaly. That’s it. In only a page and a half it sums up Montaigne’s strong points: a knack for anecdotes, a physician’s eye for detail, and the ability to moralize with charm rather than preachiness.
So stop by and check out our copy of Montaigne’s Complete Works. Start with “Of a Monstrous Child” and then make sure to avoid reading the rest like a text book—just flip around at random and enjoy.
Review by Matthew