Thursday, July 29, 2010

What Are You Reading?

I am -- briefly -- holding off finishing the book I brought with me on this vacation week, fifty pages from the end.

I just turned my gaze away from the open windows behind the couch where I have settled to read off and on this day, resting the open book on the back cushions, finding myself again and again drawn to reflect on this familiar activity.

It is a book that was recommended by a friend who claimed to see me in one of the main characters. I started it in the evenings last week as these vacation days loomed. I did not really expect to be surprised by anything I read in its four-hundred pages. It read like the page-turner that people claim to love to bring to the beach. (I do not love to read on the beach.)

A key premise of the novel is that people can mistakenly think they know what is happening around them and who the people are with whom they deal daily.

In my reading on this holiday, I too began by thinking I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it. Isn't this one of the most predictably enjoyable things I have done on summer vacations through the years?

Reading as a child and reading as an adult, however, I think I have actually expected more than simple enjoyment. Other things happen or don't happen while you read. People often don't bother you if you're reading. People can wonder less why you're not joining them in activities that they themselves enjoy. Some people don't think that a reader needs anything other than space and time alone and a little bit of quiet.

On the other hand, comments you hear suggest that some people don't think anything particularly important is happening while you read. They don't realize that you may be traveling somewhere and trying on worlds and maybe meeting your habitual ideas and finding them simplistic or one-sided.

But you know that a communication is underway. You know that with certain books, certain authors, places inside you are getting attention that they may not have gotten in years.

Fortunate are those readers who can remember as children having an adult sit next to them and ask, "What are you reading?" At its most powerful, the question was never a ploy to get you to substitute talking for your reading. It was rather an acknowledgement that the world you had entered as a reader was worth hearing about.

It was an acknowledgement that you were worth hearing about.

4 comments:

MperiodPress said...

You have hit on part of the reason I became a librarian...to ask kids that question. Yes, because I am interested...but also because I know what it meant to me as a child to have an adult take my reading seriously, to listen with curiosity to the how and why of my selections and accept my response with interest.

Love this one, friend.

Donald said...

I expected this one would get to you.

Thanks!

DanFred said...

I feel totally blessed that I was brought up surrounded by readers...aunts, uncles, grandmother, friends and their parents, my Dad and brother...books left on tables were an immediate draw, almost a distraction from conversation if you spotted one in the corner of your eye. You were drawn to them, wanted to pick them up, ask about them, read the page left open and glean something from half a sentence. I am sad this new generation will have less and less of that...the smell and feel of an old fabric-covered book that gave previous owners much pleasure is a pleasure in itself.

Ur-spo said...

Reading still remains one of the greatest joys of life. I will continue doing so until I can do so no more.