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 itâ€™s amazing how many people I know who want to be writers who donâ€™t really read. Iâ€™m not convinced someone wants to be a writer if they donâ€™t read. I donâ€™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 Iâ€™ve not read and yet, gazingÂ blankly at my shelves, all I can think is,Â Thereâ€™s nothing left to read. HopingÂ to lance the boil, to get to the heart of the matter in the course of a transatlanticÂ flight, I boughtâ€”butÂ couldnâ€™t face readingâ€”BernhardÂ Schlinkâ€™sÂ The Reader and Alberto Manguelâ€™sÂ A History of Reading. Having resigned myselfÂ to not reading them (or any of the other books Iâ€™d bought for the flight), IÂ scavenged around forÂ anything to read: the in-flightÂ magazine, the duty-freeÂ catalog, the emergency evacuation procedure. And yet, at the same time thatÂ I am ready to read scraps like this, I am an overdiscriminating reader. I amÂ always not reading something in the name of something else. The opportunityÂ cost of reading a given book is always too great. Some books, obviously,Â are a waste of oneâ€™s eyes. To feel this about airport blockbusters is perfectlyÂ normal, but I feel it is beneath me to read Jeanette Winterson, for example,Â or Hanif Kureishi. In fact, most so-calledÂ quality fiction that is story-drivenÂ seems a waste of time (time that, by the way, I have in abundance). ThisÂ would be fine if I could transpose a reluctance to read James Hawes into aÂ willingness to read Henry James, but I am unable to get beyond the first fiveÂ paragraphs (i.e., four sentences) ofÂ 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: