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Vaccilate Lengthily, and Foolishly

September 10, 2011

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I can vacillate lengthily, and foolishly, over whether to read at random (as I did on my bed in the fading light) or in some programmed way (as we all did in school). I like to cling to the John Cage-ish principle that if randomness determines the universe it might as well determine my reading too; to impose order is to strain against the nature of things. Randomness continuing for long enough will yield its own pattern or allow a pattern to emerge organically, inscrutably, from within-or so I hope. On the other hand, how comforting to have a plan. It harks back to the satisfaction of pleasing authority and earning a gold star. With a few months’ effort, anyone can become an expert on Balzac or medieval epics or Roman comedies, and how reassuringly American, too, are expertise, thoroughness, inclusiveness-offshoots of manifest destiny, no doubt, the need to control the entire territory.

-Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Ruined by Reading

12 Comments leave one →
  1. September 10, 2011 8:20 am

    Love the picture! I do both. After reading according to plan, I suddenly break out and read something just because it comes to hand. Both experiences are good and should be enjoyed. No quibbling, no guilt.

  2. September 10, 2011 8:34 am

    Love the quote, and really love the title of that book! Sounds really great :)

  3. September 10, 2011 8:48 am

    Eva, I just love this quote and am going to find “Ruined by Reading” at my library.

  4. Ioana permalink
    September 10, 2011 10:29 am

    ‘Ruined by reading’ is a great reading experience Every reader can identify with the author in some way and it’s really complex and thought provoking in spite of its short length. My copy has many passages highlighted and I rarely mark passages in my books. Have you read ‘Tolstoy and the purple chair’, Eva? It is also worth reading in my opinion, really moving and makes you wonder what it would be like to read a book per day. These two novels have made me enjoy reading books about books.

  5. September 10, 2011 2:04 pm

    Love the picture and love the quote! I start out reading spontaneously most of the time, and it leads me to planned and structured reading sometimes.

  6. September 10, 2011 2:06 pm

    Very cool and very deep. And I like it. Maybe I can add a tad more randomness to my reading.

  7. September 10, 2011 3:52 pm

    Beautiful photo and great quote. Makes me want to paint and read!

  8. September 10, 2011 5:42 pm

    Wow, such a great quote and this picture is beautiful!

  9. September 11, 2011 9:15 pm

    I want this book. So. Bad.

  10. September 12, 2011 10:44 am

    I really liked the comment from her about the fact that you can become “an expert” of some topics with just a few months’ solid reading time….

    Plus – nice pic! Good choice.
    liz in texas

  11. September 12, 2011 8:11 pm

    I love to read randomly at times and to plan what I am reading at others. Great quote!

  12. September 13, 2011 12:34 am

    I like it. I sometimes think that if I planned my reading a lot more then I would get more from it – but I am definitely more of a random reader. I can’t plan ahead at all, whatever takes my fancy when I finish my current read is what I will read next. randomness rules my reading

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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