Friday, April 09, 2010


Ruined by reading?

Right before I read Susan Hill's book, I read another book about books I've seen knocking around for years, but somehow never got around to until now: Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books by Lynne Sharon Schwartz (Beacon 1997). Reading these two books in such close proximity made me aware of their similarities - both written by intelligent, opinionated, literate women, both steeped in all things books, both looking deep into their reading pasts while also taking place in the present day. They made me want to write my own. I enjoyed both, though the only thing I didn't like about Schwartz's book was its title. Is it supposed to be ironic? Because she wasn't ruined by reading. In fact reading was her lifeline. Although I realize that yesterday I did refer to book-love as an affliction. To which Schwartz says:

""...reading is not a disabling affliction. I have done what people do, my life makes a reasonable showing. Can I go back to my books now?" (p.15)

Hmm. Later on she worries that she often can't remember what she's read, which made me smile with recognition, and she ponders the real reason behind reading, something intangible and far beyond simply gathering and retaining information:

" reading, the body is still. Indeed what reading teaches, first and foremost, is how to sit still for long periods and confront time head-on. The dynamism is all inside, an exalted, spiritual exercise so utterly engaging that we forget time and mortality along with all of life's lesser woes, and simply bask in the everlasting present. So I see, finally, why it hardly matters whether I remember the contents of the book. Mere information is nothing compared to this silent flurry." (pp.115-116)

I don't know if I've ever read a better description of the interior state reading induces, the ephemeral state that I, for one, am addicted to. So, reading. Affliction or saving grace? Both?

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?