The Pleasure Of Reading In An Age Of Distraction
By: Alan Jacobs
Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 26, 2011)
The Pleasure Of Reading In An Age Of Distraction, I think, is a superb reflection on the pastime – the art – of reading. How reading is fundamentally intertwined with an appreciation of silence. How you are probably trying to read too fast anyway. And the encouraging idea that more reading should be done, “on a whim.” Nevermind the near miracle of a fact that we are able to convey such big ideas over thousands of years with nothing but these little “decoded marks on paper.” It’s completely fascinating, if you think about it.
Two of my favorite quotes:
So one reason I usually decline to give reading recommendations is that I don’t want to encourage such habits of mind. But there’s a positive counterpart to this negative reason: my commitment to one dominant, overarching, nearly definitive principle for reading: Read at Whim. I learned this principle from the essayist and poet Randall Jarrell, who once met a scholar, a learned man and a critic, who commented that he read Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim every year.
In explaining why he wrote his book In Pursuit of Silence, George Prochnik offers a telling statement: “I’ve always been a lover of silence, and this love is bound up with my passion for books. The writer Stefan Zweig once defined a book as a ‘handful of silence that assuages torment and unrest.’ For years before I began writing about the subject, I’d been feeling that silence was a diminishing natural resource. I wanted to understand whether this was more than a subjective impression. If so, why had the world become louder, and what could be done to reinstate silence as a value in our culture?” For Prochnik, then, the constancy of the sheer racket in our culture is a threat centrally, if not primarily, to books and reading. Zweig’s “handful of silence” slips through our hands when our ears are too frequently and too harshly assaulted.
Also published on Medium.