Sunday, February 26, 2006

Public Masturbation

This was originally to be a comment in response to Tim’s previous post, but I got carried away, as is sometimes my habit.

I abhor lists of that nature, and there are certainly many of them. Where do those cunts get off on telling us what they think we should read? Who are they that I should care for their opinions? 1001 books? Unless you wholly commit yourself to the pursuit, I think I'm not going too far by suggesting that that is more reading than can be profitably accomplished in an average lifetime. Three days to read the book from cover to cover, three more days of reflection and rereading (for, if the book is truly so great, then surely it is worth more than a single run?), and a day of rest.

 

Okay, so, not exactly a lifetime. Only 20 years, in fact. But, unless we rigidly abide by their curriculum, we are still going to be reading other books, for one of the great pleasures and benefits of books is that they inevitably lead you to other books, because a fine book always stirs the imagination and warms the spirit, sets you seeking further adventure and enlightenment. The mark of a truly great reader, in my humble opinion, is not that he has dulled his senses by drawing red lines chronologically through a prepared list of books, studiously absorbing every line, every paragraph until the final page. Rather, it is that he sometimes leaves books half-finished, desirous to move on to others, carried by his fancy, certainly returning to those uncompleted volumes but never so set on a single path that he has no room for the deviations of his imagination. In fact, such a person would seemed to be marked by a singular deficit of intellect, for he feels that it is his duty to complete a course of reading, and anything seen as a duty soon becomes a chore, and anything that is a chore soon grows to become something that is despised and resented. With a tired heart, he picks up Pens´┐Żes or The Symposium or even, god forbid, Beowulf, and silently mouths his way through it, the material seeping through his eyes only to be refracted by his mind.

 

I am not a great reader by any measure, but I am a satisfied one, an enthusiastic one, and dare I say it a confident one. Though I am not so vain as to never reach for a dictionary, and am certainly not ashamed to admit that sometimes I must read a page more than once in order to understand it, I am not troubled by or fearful of any book. Some simply evoke no passion in me, and others cause me to withdraw violently, because I know that they either have nothing to offer, or will serve to actively stupify me. Why pain myself so when there are piles of unread books in my own modest collection, further piles yet to be discovered, or old friends to be revisited?

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