About Reading

Doris Lessing was conferred the 2001 Prince of Asturias Award for Literature. The  speech given by her  is amongst the collection of essays and writings in Time Bites  by  Doris Lessing

There is a new kind of educated person, who may be at school and university for twenty, twenty-five years, who knows everything about a speciality, computers, the law , economics, politics, but know about nothing else, no literature, art, history, and may be heard enquiring, “But what was the Renaissance then?” “ What was the French Revolution?”

Even 50 years ago this person would have been seen as a barbarian. To have acquired an education with nothing of the old humanist background-impossible. To call oneself educated without a background of reading – impossible.

Reading , books, the literary culture, was respected, desired, for centuries.’ – Time Bites Chapter 7

I love reading fictions and through reading fictions, I see humanity for what it is and  reading enables us to connect with other minds across time and space. A novelist can provide a vivid description of a situation and the psyches of various characters so that his or her readers can possibly relate to the story and empathize with the characters, some ordinary, some quirky.  Of course not all the readers connect with a story  in the same manner  or like the same kind of writings. Reading is a pleasure only if the writing is good. Great writings engage our emotions and sometimes, when we immerse ourselves in a story and reach the end of it, we wish that the story would not end.

Julian Barnes wrote in his essay entitled :“ George Orwell and the Fucking Elephant” published in Through the Window :

‘ Most writing comes from an inchoate process; ideas may indeed propose words, but sometimes words propose ideas (both transactions occur within the same sentence) . As E. M. Forster, a frequent target of Orwell’s put it (or rather, quoted).in Aspects of the Novel : ‘ Now do I tell what I think till I see what I say?

One of my favourite past times is to visit a local bookstore. Whenever I visit another city whether for work or leisure, nothing thrills me more than the idea of stepping into their local bookshops. I have to resist the temptation to purchase too many books as  carrying them back in my overnight bag may be a challenge. Years ago, I had unload some of the books from my checked-in luggage and end up carrying them on board with me.

In his essay entitled “ Wharton’s The Reef”. Julian Barnes wrote :

“NOVELS CONSIST OF words, evenly and democratically spaced; though some may acquire higher social rank by italicisation or capitalism. In most novels,this democracy spreads wider: every word is as important as every other word. In better novels, certain words have higher specific gravity than other words. This is something the better novelist does not draw attention to, but lets the better reader discover.

Every word and every sentence in a novel are crafted by the author to tell a story. Every reader has his or her own preferences for the kind of fictions he or she reads. Reading is  a  solitary act. Nothing pleases me more than being able to pick up a novel and plunge into  the act of reading with undivided attention.

‘ FICTION IS THE MOST  fundamental human art. Fiction is storytelling, and our reality arguably consists of the stories we tell about ourselves. Fiction is also conservative and conventional, because the structure of its market is relatively democratic ( novelists make a living one copy at a time, bringing pleasure to large audiences) , and because a novel asks for ten or twenty hours of solitary attentiveness from each member of its audience. You can walk past a painting fifty times before you begin to appreciate it. You can drift in and out of a Bartok sonata until its structures dawn on you. But a difficult novel just sits there on your shelf unread-unless you happen to be a student, in which case you’re forced to turn the pages of Woolf and Beckett.’  –  How to be alone by Jonathan Franzen


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