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villager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 10:48 AM
Original message
The Lost Art of Reading
<snip>

Reading is an act of contemplation, perhaps the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being. We possess the books we read, animating the waiting stillness of their language, but they possess us also, filling us with thoughts and observations, asking us to make them part of ourselves. This is what Conroy was hinting at in his account of adolescence, the way books enlarge us by giving direct access to experiences not our own. In order for this to work, however, we need a certain type of silence, an ability to filter out the noise.

Such a state is increasingly elusive in our over-networked culture, in which every rumor and mundanity is blogged and tweeted. Today, it seems it is not contemplation we seek but an odd sort of distraction masquerading as being in the know. Why? Because of the illusion that illumination is based on speed, that it is more important to react than to think, that we live in a culture in which something is attached to every bit of time.

Here we have my reading problem in a nutshell, for books insist we take the opposite position, that we immerse, slow down. "After September 11," Mona Simpson wrote as part of a 2001 LA Weekly round-table on reading during wartime, "I didn't read books for the news. Books, by their nature, are never new enough." By this, Simpson doesn't mean she stopped reading; instead, at a moment when it felt as if time was on fast forward, she relied on books to pull back from the onslaught, to distance herself from the present as a way of reconnecting with a more elemental sense of who we are.

Of course, the source of my distraction is somewhat different: not an event of great significance but the usual ongoing trivialities. I am too susceptible, it turns out, to the tumult of the culture, the sound and fury signifying nothing. For many years, I have read, like E.I. Lonoff in Philip Roth's "The Ghost Writer," primarily at night -- a few hours every evening once my wife and kids have gone to bed. These days, however, after spending hours reading e-mails and fielding phone calls in the office, tracking stories across countless websites, I find it difficult to quiet down. I pick up a book and read a paragraph; then my mind wanders and I check my e-mail, drift onto the Internet, pace the house before returning to the page. Or I want to do these things but don't. I force myself to remain still, to follow whatever I'm reading until the inevitable moment I give myself over to the flow. Eventually I get there, but some nights it takes 20 pages to settle down. What I'm struggling with is the encroachment of the buzz, the sense that there is something out there that merits my attention, when in fact it's mostly just a series of disconnected riffs and fragments that add up to the anxiety of the age.

<snip>

http://www.latimes.com/features/books/la-ca-reading9-20...
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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 10:51 AM
Response to Original message
1. I'm reading tons online, but not so many books any more.
So, I'm going to fix that. I went to the library yesterday and checked out a few books. Last night, instead of heading for the computer, I started reading a book about the history of Volvo. Very interesting, actually.

I'm going to reserve my evenings for books from now on, as I always used to do before getting caught up in the internet.
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villager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 10:54 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. God, I even *write* books, and the weaning-from-the-internet is a challenge
on both the reading *and* writing fronts!
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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 11:03 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. I hear you. I've written three published books (non-fiction)
and have a couple of ideas. I need to break free of using up my writing time on internet forums and work on other things. Trouble is that I'm aware that there's little chance that any of the books I have in mind would make money. I could get them published, but getting enough sales to make a profit would be unlikely these days.

So, I write in forums.
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monmouth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 11:11 AM
Response to Original message
4. I am presently reading "Paddy Whacked" by T. J. English. This in
order to wean myself off of the computer and back to some great stories. I'm reading this particular book to see if my Irish uncles or cousins have been named. I kid you not, the stories I'd hear from the old aunts and grandmom were a hoot. I highly recommend this book, English's research is wonderful and now I see how the "Gangs of New York" film was pretty much on target.
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madmom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 11:23 AM
Response to Original message
5. You can have my books when you pry them from my cold dead fingers..or something like that. I am
and always have been a avid reader as is everyone in my family. My daughter and I were just laughing the other day because we went to get something out of our purses and we both had to take the book out first. I read the internet for news, books for enjoyment. I mostly read books in the evening to help unwind from the day.It works and if it doesn't, a nice glass of wine with a book is the BEST.
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BB1 Donating Member (671 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 01:06 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. You can have my guns...
but stay the hell away from my books! All 600 or so are dear to me. The knowledge inside is greater than the force of a gun.
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pipi_k Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 02:26 PM
Response to Reply #5
8. Do you have books that you've read over and over again so many times
that you had to get new copies of them?


I have a couple like that. I think I've been through at least three copies of James A Michener's "Hawaii" because I've just worn them all out with repeated readings...

:7

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PSzymeczek Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 06:29 PM
Response to Reply #8
12. Absolutely.
The Women's Room
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pipi_k Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 02:22 PM
Response to Original message
7. when people tell me they don't read, I always feel a bit sorry for them
because IMO it's one of the most enjoyable things a human can do. Seriously.

I've loved reading ever since I was a small child...one of the many gifts from my dad including his warped sense of humor.

I can literally lose myself in different times and places...just lose track of the world around me while I'm immersed in an interesting book.

And speaking of books...is there anything more delicious than the smell and feel of a book...


Oh, and one last thing about reading...it's pretty easy to tell someone who reads from someone who doesn't...the vocabulary and spelling skills are better in people who do a lot of reading. It's like you just pick it all up by osmosis or something...

:)
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Butch350 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 03:37 PM
Response to Original message
9. I've recently rediscovered the "Foundation" series...

out in the lawn chair sunning on the deck with a good ole paper in hand, lost in some other time and place.
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DavidDvorkin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 05:40 PM
Response to Original message
10. Yawn. The world is going to the dogs
again.

Fortunately, it never seems to get there.
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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 05:43 PM
Response to Original message
11. Reading has alway been somewhat of an elite activity. nt
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Are_grits_groceries Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-09-09 06:19 AM
Response to Original message
13. Not reading is also
a reason so many people don't write well. If you read a lot, you begin to understand how words flow. You pick up styles. You become attuned to how things are said.
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