Why do we read? So many brilliant scholars have debated on that topic; from the time that humans started reading. In a couple of interesting articles in Arts and Letters Daily, the topic has been visited yet again.
To recognise oneself ( self understanding), pleasure, to be enchanted ( lost in an imaginary world) were a few reasons. There were articles on how the souls were no longer part of the reading experience since the minds were benumbed by cynical, reductionist critical reading !
(Wow! Now I understand why I had always hated those erudite essays that tore to bits a nice novel by linking it up with Derrida and Defoe and Confucius and Faust- all in four consecutive sentences.)
There were such interesting comments in the readers’ section of an article by Julian Barnes on how he has started liking E M Forster in his er, evening years! The article was witty, the readers were more so!
All of which led me to ponder on why I read…whatever it is that I manage to read…when I can do it.
1. It gives me immense joy
2. I forget my breathing problems in winter, when I have a book to bury that red nose into. Even the wheezing stops until I return to earth. Then it hits back with full vengeance, making me burrow back again!
3. It increases my self esteem that I know meanings of Bildungsroman ( he he!), exiguous, plangent and camply. (Yeah, it is not comply and Julian Barnes himself used it, so there! )
4. It is the best baby sitter around. If you want to watch an old sixty flick with hardly a groan emanating from near vicinity, try giving a dog eared copy of ‘Upper Fourth At Malory Towers’ to a little busybody!
I really do not care of what they say Blyton does to little children’s cerebrum and cerebellum along with their multi cultural sensitivities; I think she is great fun! Besides kids get to read words like pensive and candid, melancholy and malicious!
5. I remind myself of the vast universe of books unread in multiple languages;the thoughts, wisdom and laughter hidden from me . It is like getting a momentary glimpse of one’s utter ‘smallness’- so to say- of where one stands,in the vastness of the scheme of things.
Ozymandias comes to mind! That leads me to..
6. I feel great when I can relate or recollect a poem or a novel or a story and interconnect it with a picture or film or music or another book. Yay! Serious pleasure, totally self centred, by the way.
7. It improves my endurance capacity in the routine of daily living. To know that even when one is in a boring meeting or a crowded place, one can, forgive the analogy, like Hannibal Lecter, escape into the archives of memory and entertain oneself with some thing read in the past! Serious!
8. Knowing that in the most totalitarian of regimes, what they silenced first were reading and writing among women, I enjoy and toast the sheer power and freedom to enjoy the most fundamental of my human rights!
9. It teaches me, that there is a world beyond myself, my face, my body, my aspirations, my wants, my dresses, my likes, my selfies. A lesson which helps me, whenever ‘I’ become too much for me.
10. The giddy promise I have made to myself that in case God asks me for an option for my after death assignment, I might get to work in his divine library. Even dusting around the Books would be so worth it! I might end up seeing Dahl!
( The Twits: Roald Dahl)