The Big Think

November 18, 2006

In Defense of Reading

Filed under: Current Reading,Disclosure — jasony @ 11:41 am

Katherine had an interesting post the other day about reading. I think she hit on a few good points; namely, that we’re in somewhat of a low point for modern writing. I’m sure that Barry would disagree with me and point out how many great works are out there that have been written in the last five years -and doubtless the words “golden age” would crop up 😉 – but Katherine’s point has merit.

To wit, this quote I just came across on boingboing:

…the idea we’re given of reading is that the model of a reader is the person watching a film, or watching television. So the greatest principle is, “I should sit here and I should be entertained.” And the more classical model, which has been completely taken away, is the idea of a reader as an amateur musician. An amateur musician who sits at the piano, has a piece of music, which is the work, made by somebody they don’t know, who they probably couldn’t comprehend entirely, and they have to use their skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift that you give the artist and that the artist gives you. That’s the incredibly unfashionable idea of reading. And yet when you practice reading, and you work at a text, it can only give you what you put into it. It’s an old moral, but it’s completely true.

I’ve certainly never felt like a virtuoso reader. I’m in it for the entertainment and knowledge (depending on what I’m reading), and will often finish a good book (or even a Great Work), and then go online to read what other people thought of it. I’m always shocked at how much I missed. What I thought was an interesting and entertaining story about a boy and girl was, in reality, “a treatise on the interplay between the post modern meme of gender vis-a-vis normative behavior and the structural expectations of blah blah blah…” Or some such rot.

I think the result (for me, at least), is that I don’t talk much about the books I read. I prefer to keep my reading experiences to myself lest I divulge just what a shallow reader I am. I wouldn’t want to get kicked out of the literati club.

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