Thursday, May 15, 2008

Reading For Oneself

My Reading Declaration in Brief
Chapter One: "Reading for Oneself"

"it's not poetry we need in this class war."
Tony Harrison, v.

Whatever you read, however you read, whenever you read, you should read primarily for yourself. Whether that means you read for pleasure or for education, for moral edification or for aesthetic analysis, for spiritual nourishment or for entertainment, for career necessity or merely to pass the time, you read for yourself. Your experience with the book is going to be largely solitary. You do not have to justify your reading to anybody else. You do not have to explain how or why you read to anybody else. What you choose to read is for you, and you needn't feel guilty if anybody else disapproves. And if you are ever required to read something, you should still read for yourself: the person requiring you to read cannot gain anything from your time with the book, but you can, and in a year it will not matter to that person whether you read a particular assigned book, but it may still matter to you.

We are not alone as readers. We can share, discuss, argue, teach, learn. But that is separate from the experience of reading (though it may be a part of the book lingering with you long after you've put it down). It is unlikely you can help anybody else by reading--there are much better ways to help others. And we read as individuals: in the great variation of humanity, we find many ways to do most everything, and that includes reading.

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