People have been asking me the following alarming questions with increasing frequency lately:
“What’s the big deal about READING anyway?”
(after receiving a longer response than they cared to hear, they say….)
“Okay, fine, I admit SOME books MIGHT have A LITTLE intellectual merit. I’ll just read the summaries on the internet, though,” because they think that’ll shut me up, because apparently people REALLY believe that reading internet summaries instead of books is OK. “What do you mean that’s not good enough? You’re such a perfectionist. Why does it matter as long as I get the point of the story?”
I reply, but am promptly accused of the very serious crime of Reading Fiction, and “What’s the difference between reading fiction and watching TV? You don’t learn anything anyway.”
Which infuriates me to no end. TO NO END. It infuriates me enough to write things in ALL CAPS. That’s how much it infuriates me. FURY. I try to answer without them noticing the smoke rising from my nostrils (no one ever does. weird, huh?) but people just don’t know when to stop:
“Okay, yeah, I guess I do like reading….But none of that classic literature stuff. It’s boring and anyway, it’s only ‘classic’ because a bunch of stuffy academics decided to talk about it in some of their classes. It’s an arbitrary system of merit! There are probably tons of overlooked good books in the world! And anyway, the important thing is that I enjoy what I read, right?”
This discussion always leaves me speechless. At this point, I usually just resign myself to my room, waiting for the world to fade away as everything and everyone becomes less and less substantial. I really thought the answers to these questions were obvious. I thought that people AT LEAST believed reading was important, even if they didn’t choose to act on this belief. But we’re a generation of rebels, aren’t we, questioning all that is sacred in society. Why are we doomed to question all the wrong things? Why literacy and education and civic engagement?! SERIOUSLY.
But I digress.
I am tired of being asked these questions, so I’ve decided to answer them. And the next time someone decides to INFURIATE me, I shall calmly direct them to these notes. Don’t worry, I’m not going to answer them all now, or all at once, because I know people don’t like to read things more than a page long nowadays, because, omg, an email, a text, skip this song, oh, I need to download that episode, oh have you seen this youtube video?, wow look at this really interesting story on digg….
I won’t keep you from your very busy lives. I’ll break this up into manageable chunks for your convenience. Stay tuned.
[I know you’ll probably want to start replying/defending now, since it’s 4am and what else are you going to do? Feel free to do so, but I won’t get into a discussion about any of this until I’ve actually addressed the question]