Friday, July 10, 2009

A History of Reading (1)

Alberto Manguel. New York: Penguin Books USA, Inc. 1996.

Why read it? Do you have questions about reading? You read. But do you think about the process of reading? Is the way you read the way everybody else reads? How has reading changed over the years? This book is, in a sense, the author’s autobiographical account of his reading and an historical account of the development of reading. In explaining his experience of reading, he answers other readers’ questions about their reading. He provides a number of interesting thoughts about the nature of reading.

Sample quotes and ideas:

Flaubert: “Read in order to live.” p. 00.

“We read to understand, or to begin to understand.” p. 7.

“Experience came to me first through books. Later in life when I came across an event or circumstance or character similar to one I had read about, it usually had the slightly startling but disappointing feeling of déjà vu, because I imagined that what was not taking place had already happened to me in words, had already been named.” p. 8.

Reading gave me an excuse for privacy.” p. 10.

“Each book was a world unto itself….” p. 11.

“Since my father was in the diplomatic service, we traveled a great deal; books gave me a permanent home, and one I could inhabit exactly as I felt like, at any time, no matter how strange the room in which I had to sleep or how unintelligible the voices outside my door.” p. 11.

“I…soon discovered that one doesn’t simply read Crime and Punishment or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn…one reads a certain edition, a specific copy, recognizable by the roughness or smoothness of its paper, by its scent, by a slight tear on page 72 and a coffee ring on the right-hand corner of the back cover.” p. 15.

“…reading out loud to him texts that I had read before on my own modified those earlier solitary readings….” p. 19.

“…but largely my encounters with books have been a matter of chance….” p. 20.

“Almost everywhere, the community of readers has an ambiguous reputation that comes from its acquired authority and perceived power.” p. 21.

“ ‘Go out and live!’ my mother would say when she saw me reading, as if my silent activity contradicted her sense of what it meant to be alive.” p. 21.

To be continued.

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