Why read

Another sure sign that the Fall semester’s about to begin: awoke at about 3:30 in the middle of an impassioned lecture/harangue/dream, in which I was reprimanding students who’d shrugged off a class assignment and announced that “we don’t read.” Almost fumbled around in the dark for a pad & pencil to write it down, it felt insightful and elusive, as mid-night thoughts so often deceptively do. But I didn’t, so I’ll never know how instructive my dreamspeech really was. Others, though, have addressed this subject with conscious eloquence. Sven Birkerts, for instance:

The reading imagination further opens onto history, the understanding that every culture is deeply layered and does not become relevant only with the latest app. Understanding the lives of others as embedded in time and place, however remote or recent, reinforces that awareness of our own situation. We aren’t privileged beings suspended in the bubble of the now, and our experience is not unique.

Or as C.S. Lewis was made to say in Shadowlands: we read to know we are not alone.


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