At Booking Through Thursday, this week’s question is:
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?
I’ve thought about this from time to time: how reading a book takes a person away, and how it can seem like a reproach to others in the room (especially, I think, if they’re not readers themselves). It’s almost as though one is saying, “I’d rather be here in the pretend world of this book than to spend time talking with the likes of you.”
And that’s not really what I’m aiming for when I read. That’s not it at all.
Mainly, I read because I cannot imagine not reading.
I’m told that ever since I learned how to sound out combinations of letters, I was “reading” everywhere we went — sounding out street signs and labels and logos. I still do this today; if there is printed text anywhere around me, that’s where my eyes are drawn. They say that a human face is the main draw for one’s eyes, and I suppose that’s true. But for me, text wins a strong second place.
Even in a quilt shop, for Pete’s sake, I am drawn to fabric with words on it.
So I don’t know exactly why I read, but it’s not to escape my terrible life, because my life ain’t terrible. And it’s not exactly to figure out the world, though that’s part of it sometimes.
It just feels more like I was born with a switch that got flipped, and that’s all she wrote.