Making Use of the Blood We Read


So, at first glance, nothing glaringly special about this picture. Looks like the text to some story or a reading assignment for someone. However, let’s take a closer look at the bottom right. Can you maybe squint and make it out? Certainly, the color is different. Looks like a smattering of blood. It is. It really is.

I guess, we can leave it at that and just say, ‘So what?’ But as most visitors have found out by now, we never seem to just leave it at that here at this blog. Sorry. The blood must be considered and reflected upon. In fact, while helping a student prepare for a reading comprehension test, this blood stain provided a valuable opportunity to practice more critical analysis skills.

First, right away, there was immediate comic relief. That’s the first meaning derived from the student. He started laughing uncontrollably when coming to the conclusion that a previous student who had used this text must had been studying with such intensity to cause bleeding. Was he pressing the page too hard? Was he picking his lip while thinking about literary devices?

Not letting go, we went further and investigated the exact location of the blood stain. Was it saying something? Evidence? A hint? It was! It really was! It drew our attention to the word “But”, which indicates an important turning point and change in the story.

Then the discussion revolved around how used books have a more personal quality to them. There’s a feeling of attachment to the previous user, a sense of connection, where we feel the pain and struggles of those coming before us.

For me, I know how much I love receiving handwritten letters from a person who ate while composing them. I massage the grease stains with all my senses, trying to taste the entire context of that time and location.

We have to wonder, how did the blood-stained student perform on the reading exam? Was this stain meant to be passed along to us? Are we studying hard enough when we have not yet contributed any red? Or is it indicative of how much stress students are under these days?

Despite asking a lot of questions, we did not have any answers, but the ‘blood’ definitely added some life and stimulation to fatigued eyes.

-Patrick Law


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