Sunday, 14 February 2016

Reading A Competitive Sport ??


I'm a little bemused, perhaps the memo went astray, or in a senior moment i misfiled it.   could you enlighten me please?   when did reading become a competitive sport?   Ooooh, you didn't know either?   seems you and i have been kept in the dark about a fundamental change to one of the  finer diversions dreamed up by humanity.

From Schools Minister Nick Gibbs  to Mr Facebook Zuckerberg there are demands and online challenges to read one book every week for a year. you can find websites, blog sites, reading sites, social media sites, news sites, "how to" sites,  insights, outsights,  put your left foot in and shake it all about sites.  do a Google search for "read a book a week" and you will find dozens of entries, i gave up dipping in after FIFTY SIX of them.... more than seven days worth !!

Now, as  a long term librocubicularist and insomniac i have absolutely no quarrel with anyone who can consume vast quantities of reading material and often do so myself, along with mountains of cocoa and toast.... hey, if you are going to be awake whilst the rest of the west slumbers make an event of it, fretting only delays any prospect of shut eye.... but i can't see how racing to finish in order to start the next title is in any sense relaxing or conducive to sleep.
noun - A person who reads in bed.    
pronounced - lib-ro-kyoo-bi-kyoo-lar-ist

A book can be thought of in a similar way to chocolate... Mills and Boons et al would be the equivalent of cake covering, cheap and leaving a nasty, palate coating after taste.... mass market paperbacks represent Cadbury or Galaxy, easy to binge on and once started hard to stop but ultimately unfullfilling, unenriching.... literature is the equivalent of a luxury box of artisan hand made truffles, rich, dark, challenging and to be savoured.   

In my early teens, having exhausted the school library, i worked my way through the parent's shelves of Pan Horror, Dennis Wheatley and Readers Digest Condensed.   not greatly edifying but short chapters and few words over two syllables made them accessible to a young reader, but when a couple of years later i was given the C. S. Lewis trilogy Out of the Silent Planet it was as though a door had opened onto a new vista.   to discover analogy before knowing it even had a name was inspirational, clarity of images conjured  from a few words remain sharp and vivid decades after reading them, dialogue that unfurled and flowed into the furthest recesses of my mind lingered, creating a longing to read and re-read a single sentence until it surrendered its ambiguities. having tasted, for the first time, gourmet high cocoa content there was no returning to Milky Way.

So.... a book a week ???  if you're a speed reader it's viable but i have a suspicion that for most of us to succeed quality would  be sacrificed on the altar of mediocrity.   what is so noble about devouring 52 humdrum bestsellers but turning your back on the high quality confections the English language can supply because they are harder to digest?   is it possible to revel in a narrative when the mind is already anticipating the next novel in the queue?   would you take the time to discover the definition of a new word if it set you back a few pages in your schedule? can you truly immerse yourself in a fictional world, absorbing it's nuances, becoming fully familiar with it's personalities whilst watching the calendar countdown?  


In an age where everything has to be quantified and evaluated before it is deemed to be of worth there must be areas of our lives that can be appreciated simply for their pleasure,  to be lingered over, rolled around the psyche for as long as there is more to be found, reading for me comes into that category.   Not a race,  a contest, a sport but an escape, an experience, an immersion.   




4 comments:

  1. Or like a walk on the beach; not how quickly can I walk there and back, or how many pieces of driftwood can I find, but walking just to walk and enjoy the space, the waves, even the hail!

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  2. Love the pictures Jeni. I think that anything that gets people to read is to be encouraged - if a book a week gets them started on a habit of regular reading so be it. I am sure they will eventually slow down and start choosing longer, meatier books.

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    Replies
    1. I hope so. It was a hard post to write without sounding judgmental.

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