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Friday, July 26, 2013


I love to read. I prefer reading to watching a movie. When I prepare to go on vacation, I start an ambitious pile of things I will read on the trip, because I look as forward to getting unlimited time to read as I do the vacation itself.

If I enjoy what I'm reading, I can't put it down. I will read as I walk through the house, as I cook, as I brush my teeth, as I lay in bed, even when I am so tired that my eyes are watering from fatigue and lack of ability to keep focusing. Still I will read.

I decided to be an English major in college because I knew it would give me an excuse to read so much. There was one quarter when I took not one but two fiction classes, and had seventeen novels to read in ten weeks. Sure, I moaned a lot about how "hard" it was to get it all done, but secretly I loved it.

A rapidly fading delight in the world is the ability to wander through a used bookstore. With the advent of e-readers and the demise of brick-and-mortar bookstores we are losing that endlessly lovely pastime of simply wandering through the aisles and happening upon something we would have otherwise not thought of. This seems like a definitive, culture-changing loss to me.

Somewhere along such aimless wanderings I picked up The Writer's Chapbook: A Compendium of Fact, Opinion, Wit, and Advice from the 20th Century's Preeminent Writers, edited by George Plimpton. It is a collection of insights taken from interviews with famous writers on their craft. I have hoarded it like a fine bottle of wine, occasionally looking at it and feeling especially creative by merely owning it.

Today I cracked it open. Already, I am wondering why I have waited so long! Only a few pages in, I am completely hooked. I will have to exercise great self-discipline to take it slow, because I can already tell it's a big sloppy feast for a reader like me.

Separated into the various aspects of writing, the first chapter is on reading. Enjoy these little nuggets:

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Richard Steele
I average about five books a week... the normal length novel takes me about two hours. Truman Capote 
The books that you really love give the sense, when you first open them, of having been there. John Cheever 
(Referring to Hemingway's writing) I mean, they're perfect sentences. Very direct sentences, smooth rivers, clear water over granite, no sinkholes. Joan Didion 
Hemingway and I used to read the Bible to each other. He began it. We read separate little scenes. From Kings, Chronicles. We didn't make anything out of it -- the reading -- but Ernest at that time talked a lot about style. John Dos Passos

And my favorite one so far:

The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination. Elizabeth Hardwick

May this little post serve as a reminder that books are indeed a "great gift." Do not let yourself get too busy to not read. And now, back to my reading...

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