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Serious Reading

Now, on the contrary, every moment of serious reading has to be fought for, planned for.

Tim Parks in “Reading: The Struggle,” in the New York Review of Books, about finding the time — real solitude, not just breaks in your schedule — for serious reading, especially work of “conceptual delicacy and syntactical complexity” and novels of the past.

Dickens is a world to immerse yourself in for periods of not less than half an hour, otherwise the mind will struggle to accustom itself to the aura of it all…

He talks about how the conditions we read in today are much different than just fifty, even thirty years ago, and what that means for contemporary fiction — and how it will adapt.

On the literary works of now:

There is a battering ram quality to the contemporary novel, an insistence and repetition that perhaps permits the reader to hang in despite the frequent interruptions to which most ordinary readers leave themselves open.

16 Comments

  1. It is really true – our lives are so different now to the way people were living 50 years ago.. even the simple acting of buying a book isn’t what it once was! My book time is my commute to and from work, as well as my lunch break… nothing better than sitting at a little café with a pot of tea and my book to escape the rat race for an hour!!

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  2. I love to read…or shall I admit listen! I download books on audible.com and listen to them on my drive to work and at home or while taking my dog for a walk. That works for me. I love the pictures of the library!

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  3. I so enjoy reading and have found the task of reading a novel daunting. To cure this, I made a pact with myself that I would read a chapter or two a day…this works for me.

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    • Ah, always enjoy posts on The Frailest Thing. The post mentioned, about project books, is great. I wonder what’d be mine? I have so many books in boxes that I’ve never read — many of them classics, or very fat and bulky, and daunting. Might have to try it out 🙂

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  4. Beautiful! As well, I admit to making a tiny sound of irrepressible desire when I first saw the images at the head of this entry. I need a bibliophile support group, perhaps.

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  5. Great thoughts – there are definitely different books I can and can’t read at various times of the day. I just picked up a Virginia Woolf book and am realizing that I’ll need to block out these significant chunks of time to read her, instead of random bits here and there.

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    • I hear that.

      Lately I’ve been picking up a few books here and there throughout the week, flipping to random pages, and just reading bits. Most recently with Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones (still, after all these years), and one of her more recent ones, The True Secret of Writing (which I actually find a bit meh, maybe because I don’t think anything compares to Writing Down the Bones.

      Did this also with Teju Cole’s Open City, which was interesting, too.

      I don’t recall the last time I sat and read a physical book for at least an hour or half-hour, uninterrupted.

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  6. A library is one of the most sumptuous, inviting spaces you can create. I love Sven Birkerts book ‘The Gutenberg Elegies’…he uses Dickens, as well, to illustrate that reading must be an involvement of self, (not just information gathering) or as he puts it; ‘the condition of self suspended in the medium of language, the particles of the identity wavering in the magnetic current of another’s expression’. Obviously this is a process that means a loving investment of time!

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  7. Oh gosh. with working full time and writing in my free hours, I struggle to find time to read – and I love reading. Good post.

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    • I read a lot for work (and for that, I read for a specific reason). The irony is that I feel I have little time to read for myself…and don’t even ask me the last time I actually finished a book!

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