It seems a bit stupid to call reading an art. I was going to write counterintuitive, but that’s a kind of wanky word. Reading is just something I do. We can stick art as descriptive tag before most words and phrases and somehow make it seem erudite. Try it at home. The Art of the Blowsy Blonde. The Art of the Bicycle. The Art of the Mug. The Art of the Article.
But as Damon Young shows reading, if done properly, really is an art form. And if you are interested in The Art of Writing this is a great place to start. The Art of Writing, of course, starts with The Art of Reading. Both are in constant flux. You are what you read. You are what you write.
Young has split his book into easy to read sections. All are readable. Liberating Pages looks are why we read. There are as many reasons as there are books. I quite like this explanation which combines two factors in a dance.
In classical Greek, the word for virtue was arête, excellence. As Aristotle argued, an excellence is not a state of mind, since these change—it as for life’s striving, not a single moment…Each excellence…is a hexis. So literary arête is not innate, but nor is it artificial. Like reading itself, a good hexis is a potential we are born with, but have to realise with regular toil.
I guess many of us might recognise ourselves here (guilty as charged).
…the art of reading often takes place to the fantasy of publication.
That old cliché you’ve got a book in you.
One survey reported that in the United States, eight out of ten people wanted to write a book—a startling figure even if only half right.
Contrast this with The Pew Research Centre found that a quarter of Americans had not read a book in the previous year.
Or in the President of the United States case the previous life time.
As Flannery O’Connor notes ‘They are interested in being a writer. Not in writing.’
‘The reader’s potencies are denied, along with a chance to exercise them more artfully.
Curiosity and The Infinite Library. In Jorge Luis Borges short story the ‘Library of Babel’, the rooms go on forever, rather like pages in the World Wide Web. Curiosity, in one reading of David Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature is ‘the love of truth’. If a book is not true it is not worth wasting your time reading. A book must also be necessary. A plenum of possibility.
‘There is a joy in getting someone to hand us their butterfly,’ quipped novelist Zadie Smith, ‘so we can spend twenty pages making the case for it being our giraffe.’
Patience, Courage, Pride, Temperance and Justice follow Curiosity. I’m sure you get the gist of it. Reading is an art. Our tastes change. We change. But that love. That first love of reading makes your life better and you more empathetic. Those that don’t read are dullards. They have my pity. Read on.