Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reading


So far this year, I’m doing fairly well in the reading department. In addition to finishing Proust, which my son and I started reading on the first day of August last year, I’ve made my way through Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, and Oliver Twist, as well as about 250 pages of Montaigne’s Complete Works. And I’ve enjoyed them all immensely. The act of reading is so satisfying and complex. I mentioned yesterday the distance traveled while I draw; the same goes for reading, just as it does for writing. All are limitless, exhilarating, exhausting. I don’t read to escape. I read to understand, and to feel and live more deeply. I read to alleviate my ignorance. I read to be in the company of minds whose power and breadth is an immortal force. And I write for the same reason. The mind itself, beyond its myriad individual peculiarities, is also a shared force; mine is not inferior to Proust’s or Twain’s, only different — or so they allow me, by their good graces, to believe.

11 comments:

Wine and Words said...

Ha! When the page is paper, I read to escape. When the page is liquid crystal, I read to feel and live more deeply. As always the two fractions of my being collide into one body of nonsense. I really want to read Huck Finn again. I think I will. Will I live more deeply if I read it on the computer? Hmmmmm

William Michaelian said...

Hmmmmm, indeed. If you do read it that way, I hope you will publish the results of your research. And yet I wonder how you could not feel and live more deeply reading it under either circumstance. No, that would not be like you at all. You may say you read to escape, and maybe you really do escape with a book in your hands, but your escape is into an even fuller life. And as for the two fractions of your being (only two?), the sum is always greater than its parts.

Wine and Words said...

*snicker*. Yeah, two was a lie. An outright lie. Just call me Sybil.

You're right...of course.

William Michaelian said...

Am I? I can never really tell. But I do like snickers, although I far prefer homemade fudge with walnuts. See you later — or as many of you as care to present themselves (yourselves?).

Two Tigers said...

What you said - escape, but into a fuller life - so true! I'm glad one of us is reading this year, William. But until I find or make the time for it, I could not ask for a better surrogate through which to live my reading life vicariously. You are such a good reader, the kind any book would be happy to have in its pages, and any author in their mind sharing their thoughts.

William Michaelian said...

Well, I suppose we all read differently and for different reasons. But I like the idea of Dickens looking over my shoulder while I smile with admiration at the stunts he pulls. More than anything, I want to share the spirit of reading and the open door it represents. In my edition of Oliver Twist there’s an Afterword by G.K. Chesterton, full of lovely intelligent analysis I would never be capable of. I just don’t come at literature from that direction. But I do live it to a large, maybe even dangerous, extent. And as for the time spent between books, Gabriella, whether it is long or short, it too informs the text when at last we return. If it didn’t, how would we find so many new and wonderful things when we read great works the second, third, and fourth time?

Anthony Duce said...

I still read mostly to escape all the other stuff in my life, good and bad. I read to learn too, but that is a different form of reading, it’s like work. What I learn while escaping is extra, and the best of both worlds. I think it’s great to be reading for better reasons, but escape works too.

Elisabeth said...

Splendidly put, William. You give us hope. We are part of your shared horizons, all with our different sensibilities and voices. Thanks.

William Michaelian said...

Anthony, a bad habit — or a good one, depending on how you look at it — I formed many years ago is that of reading only what I want to read, and so when I read it never feels like work. And yet it is work, because as much as I enjoy it and as fun as it is, I pay very close attention to every aspect of the production. Are these better reasons for reading? Not at all. They’re just mine. And they’re the same ones, ironically, that kept me striking out at school.

Elisabeth, thank you. Really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Different readings and approaches are what give vitality and longevity to a text.

rosaria said...

I like this! To understand, to connect:yes!

William Michaelian said...

It’s such an amazing, inexhaustible medium. Thanks, Rosaria.