More on Reading

July 14th, 2004 · 1 Comment
by Booksquare

We promise you, nobody takes reading more seriously than we do (although we will admit that in the past few years, we have discovered this newfangled invention called television thanks to a most beautiful concept called TiVo). We read like we breathe. Actually, given our tendency toward allergies, we probably read better. To give an example of how important reading is to us, we refer back to our elbow surgery. Not only did the operation make it difficult to hold a book, but the painkillers…oh, they made us dizzy. Too dizzy to read. We ceased with the painkillers.

Yes, you read it right: reading is more important to us than any other mind-altering drug.

But we know that reading is only one aspect of what makes us a well-rounded citizen (food being another). Music seems to be important. Active discussions (read: loud arguments) with friends and family about all sorts of things are helpful for exchanging ideas. We sort of like museums, but find the whole scene sort of phony with its hushed reverence of former everyday objects (ancient forks and bowls and necklaces) and Jackson Pollack. Movies are helpful; we learn stuff from them (like, for example, our household favorite Gates of Heaven).

Then there’s the crack cocaine of art: television. One hit of that stuff, and you’re gone. We probably should, in the interest of public service, mention that the Internet with its chat and news and crazy pictures is fast becoming the crystal meth of the mind-altering art world. Do not let your children near the Internet.

Literacy, as we’ve noted, can change the world. Okay, we didn’t come out and say that, but we expect people to be good at reading between our lines. But Andrew Solomon’s New York Times article is just a little too precious about reading. So much so that we rolled our eyes and passed it by the first go-round. It reminds us of those who refuse to acknowledge (much less read) ebooks because they can’t bear to part with the scent of ink on paper. We don’t disagree with Solomon’s thesis, mind you (except when he evokes reading in the fight against terrorism — it seems to us that argument could go both ways); it’s more the sense he creates that reading is an intellectual pursuit. Sometimes, sure. Sometimes, no.

Salon’s Charles Taylor weighs in on Solomon’s article. Reading is not always a brain-cell intensive activity. Watching television is not always an intellect-sapping activity. The Internet is arguably a more powerful tool in the fight against terrorism (this is us, not Taylor) because it provides instantaneous access to a wide variety of opinions, not just those advocated by major media — there’s a reason the Chinese government is terrified of an online population.

We want you to read. We want you to spread the gospel of reading. We want you to read whatever you want, wherever you want. But we also want you to remember that people learn in different ways. The world is filled with visual learners. Tactile learners. Auditory learners. All-of-the-above learners. In a free society, ideas must flow from all sources. Even television.

File Under: Square Pegs

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