I can’t ever seem to blog on Monday’s. I’m just not good at it. It always takes my brain a day or two to get used to thinking on it’s feet after the lazy weekend, so this little stream of thought is all I’ve got for you today. Please forgive my Monday’s, it’s rather like having mumps of the soul. But I suspect I’ll be back tomorrow, and charging full steam ahead. And even with a case of The Today’s, I still love a good story, and I love to talk about my love of a good story, so here goes…
I am, obviously, a great proponent of literacy. I don’t believe there is any greater thing you can do for your child, aside from giving them unconditional love and a sense of security, than give them a great love of reading and the ability to read and write with skill. No matter what they do in life, it will serve them well.
Despite feeling this deeply, and even having written my senior thesis on the subject, I often struggle to find the words to defend it, especially when a friend or an acquaintance tells me something ridiculous such as, “I don’t read fiction. It’s a waste of time.” Or, “I read fiction only for fun, since there’s nothing really to learn from it.” Or, as one mother sneered in my bookstore after her son asked to buy The Lord of the Rings, “My son reads nothing but fantasies, and science fiction. All nonsense. I hate that that’s all he reads. He needs to start reading real books, or he’ll never grow up.”
Um, excuse me? That’s classical literature! Do you plan to send you son to college? Because if you do, he’ll read plenty of that “nonsense” in required classes!
But did I say that? NO. I didn’t think of it until much later. Instead I mumbled like an idiot, “Um, well, that’s actually a really great book.” And then she gave me the death look, and I told my boss she was mean, because I’m very mature and always handle conflict in an adult manner. But she did let him buy it in the end, so I was glad.
After I finished The Book of Lost Things last week, I was reading all the extra stuff in the back, when I came across this great quote from the author John Connolly. It exemplifies pretty well how I feel about the subject.
“I think the act of reading imbues the reader with a sensitivity toward the outside world that people who don’t read can sometimes lack. I know it seems like a contradiction in terms; after all, reading is such a solitary , internalizing act that it appears to represent a disengagement from day-to-day life. But reading, and particularly the reading of fiction, encourages us to view the world in new and challenging ways. I have always believed that fiction acts as a prism, taking the reality of our existence and breaking it down into its constituent parts allowing us to see it in a completely different form. It allows us to inhabit the consciousness of another, which is a precursor to empathy, and empathy is, for me, one of the marks of a decent human being.”
Yes! I find that it is when I am actively reading along side of an active life that I am most engaged with the human spirit, with the world around me.I don’t think you have to read as much as I do to be a good person, my husband for instance is not as much of a reader now as he used to be, and he is a man of great quality, but I do think it is wrong to discount what it brings to your table. My inner life would be dull indeed if mine was the only viewpoint I ever saw, and I have no other way to crawl inside someone elses view except through literature.
And what about you? Do you agree with Connolly and myself, or is fiction relegated to the world of “fun but pointless” in your world? Or perhaps you only see the value in classic works and not modern fiction, or only read non-fiction, never touching fiction with anything but your pinky finger as you scoot it out of your way at the library? No matter what your view-point, my question is why? Why do you read? And why do you read what you read? I making rather an informal study of the matter, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.