Friday, May 1, 2009

The pleasure of reading...a view from outside the bunker

What the bunker mentality forgets, or denies:

The real pleasure of reading. Having just finished S/Z (a ludic masterpiece that was ludicrously enjoyable...Eagleton is right, some theory is far more entertaining, thought provoking and readable than a lot of modern fiction) I'm working my way carefully through Le Fanu, (though in no way trying to imitate Barthes. I think that's one inimitable performance) and reminding myself how much pleasure there is in simply reading something very slowly and fact in paying attention to the texture of the text...;

One of the glories of great art (and yes,I do beleive in such a thing) is its ability to exceed the reach of the viewer/audience/reader so that each encounter with the same piece is a new one. Which requires a certain generosity on the part of the reader; a willingness to go along for the ride the first time with an open mind rather than to start by suspecting the thing in your hands or your ears or your eyes is infected;

And the fact that no poem or novel is compulsory outside the class room. And the default position is not to simply accept whatever ideology the text might be promoting. On this last point the following seems to be about right, though as I typed it out I wanted to change it to “he or she, himself/herself”.

Wislaw Szymborska:

“One more comment from the heart: I’m old fashioned and think that reading books is the most glorious pastime that humankind has yet devised. Homo Ludens dances, sings, produces meaningful gestures, strikes poses, dresses up, revels and performs elaborate rituals. I don’t wish to diminish the significance of these distractions-without them human life would pass in unimaginable monotony and possibly dispersion and defeat. But these are group activities above which drifts a more or less perceptible whiff of collective gymnastics. Homo Ludens with a book is free. At least as free as he’s capable of being. He himself makes up the rules of the game, which are subject only to his own curiosity. He’s permitted to read intelligent books, from which he will benefit, as well as stupid ones, from which he may also learn something. He can stop before finishing one book, if he wishes, while starting another at the end and working his way back to the beginning. He may laugh in the wrong places or stop short at words he’ll keep for a life time. And finally, he’s free-and no other hobby can promise this-to eavesdrop on Montaigne’s arguments or take a quick dip in the Mesozoic."

Wislawa Szymborska “nonrequired readings” which is a wonderful book full of wonder and the pleasure of reading.

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