Monday, March 1, 2010

Booking It--Why?

I’ve seen this quotation in several places lately. It’s from Sven Birkerts’ ‘The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age’:

“To read, when one does so of one’s own free will, is to make a volitional statement, to cast a vote; it is to posit an elsewhere and set off toward it. And like any traveling, reading is at once a movement and a comment of sorts about the place one has left. To open a book voluntarily is at some level to remark the insufficiency either of one’s life or one’s orientation toward it.”

To what extent does this describe you?


First of all, I'm not sure that reading is volitional with me. In a way, of course, it is. No one's holding a gun to my head, and I'm not reading to earn a grade. So obviously I'm choosing to read.

However, I think that, rather than being a person who chooses to read, I am a reader. It is a part of my identity. Maybe it's a compulsion, I don't know. But I do know that I need to read. I can't imagine life without it.

And I'll agree that reading's like traveling; it's a movement away from the world I'm in into new worlds, new times, new identities, new possibilities.

But "insufficiency"? If this quote means that I constantly yearn to know more, to experience more, to always learn and grow, then okay. I'll give you that. But if it means that readers only read because their own lives lack substance and we pathetically struggle for meaning through the pages of someone else's imagination, then no, this quote does not describe me at all.

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