Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Read on, Macduff!

Can you read this waffle iron?
Some people read voraciously, some read a little, and some read virtually not-at-all. (You may quote me on this profundity if you wish.) Some of us habitual readers pompously consider reading to be virtuous, and non-reading to be a partner of laziness, ignorance, intellectual lethargy, apathy, etc.

Agnes and I just assumed the administrative role at the Station Arts Centre in Rosthern. One of the events we’re preparing for is the reading-out-loud of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol in December. Will people come? We wonder and are not sure. Will people be found who can do the text justice? When they read, of course, what people hear will virtually be the voice of Charles Dickens telling a story through the medium of print. The words will be the words he chose, placed in the order he considered appropriate and most effective.

Dickens was good at reading aloud, apparently. People would fill auditoriums to hear him read excerpts from his novels.
Anne Enright is a good storyteller as well, although I've no idea how well she reads--aloud. Her short story, “What You Want” in the collection, Yesterday’s Weather, appealed to me more than any short story I’d read for years. Enright’s stories are most often told through the eyes of female narrators who are wives and mothers. Generally, listening to the stories of the regrets, the longings of suburban motherhood doesn’t grab me; Enright succeeds in capturing my attention, and I don't mind listening to her, attentively and without interruption.

Reading, seems to me, represents an eagerness--or at least a willingness--to absorb wisdom and knowledge in one unique way. When you tell a story in print, the listener doesn’t interrupt, doesn’t insist on interposing an alternate viewpoint although he may well have one. Try that at coffee time!

I continue to insist that the ability to read well and the habit of reading much renders people more fit to face a chaotic world. But I guess that’s only true if the choice of reading material is informed, and that’s a whole other issue. Who will tell the masses to read “A” and use “B” to line their birdcages? Ay, there’s the rub!
On the other hand, if you ask me I’ll tell you. Read Charles Dickens and Anne Enright, and next week . . ..

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