Some thoughts from clever people on reading and where it fits in our lives.
First, Jennifer Egan, in a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful piece on becoming a writer:
My advice is so basic. Number one: Read. I feel like itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s amazing how many people I know who want to be writers who donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really read. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not convinced someone wants to be a writer if they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t read. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think the problem is that they need to read more; I think they might need to readjust their life goals. Reading is the nourishment that lets you do interesting work. To be reading good things. I feel that you should be reading what you want to write. Nothing less.
Beautifully said, I think. And it makes me want to read Jennifer Egan in particular (I haven’t, yet).
But on the other hand, this from Geoff Dyer:
Back home there are plenty of books that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve not read and yet, gazingÃ‚Â blankly at my shelves, all I can think is,Ã‚Â ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nothing left to read. HopingÃ‚Â to lance the boil, to get to the heart of the matter in the course of a transatlanticÃ‚Â flight, I boughtÃ¢â‚¬â€butÃ‚Â couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t face readingÃ¢â‚¬â€BernhardÃ‚Â SchlinkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢sÃ‚Â The Reader and Alberto ManguelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢sÃ‚Â A History of Reading. Having resigned myselfÃ‚Â to not reading them (or any of the other books IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d bought for the flight), IÃ‚Â scavenged around forÃ‚Â anything to read: the in-flightÃ‚Â magazine, the duty-freeÃ‚Â catalog, the emergency evacuation procedure. And yet, at the same time thatÃ‚Â I am ready to read scraps like this, I am an overdiscriminating reader. I amÃ‚Â always not reading something in the name of something else. The opportunityÃ‚Â cost of reading a given book is always too great. Some books, obviously,Ã‚Â are a waste of oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s eyes. To feel this about airport blockbusters is perfectlyÃ‚Â normal, but I feel it is beneath me to read Jeanette Winterson, for example,Ã‚Â or Hanif Kureishi. In fact, most so-calledÃ‚Â quality fiction that is story-drivenÃ‚Â seems a waste of time (time that, by the way, I have in abundance). ThisÃ‚Â would be fine if I could transpose a reluctance to read James Hawes into aÃ‚Â willingness to read Henry James, but I am unable to get beyond the first fiveÃ‚Â paragraphs (i.e., four sentences) ofÃ‚Â The Golden Bowl.
I should say that comment is very much taken out of context. It’s funny, cynical, bleak and interesting all at the same time. I’m glad I read it. So, there, some irony too.
And finally, this little exchange on Twitter with the one-and-only Norman Geras, on the subject of when it’s right to abandon a book: