Have we fallen out of love with bookshops?
“Reading was my escape and my comfort, my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure pleasure of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author's words reverberating in your head.” -- Paul Auster, The Brooklyn Follies.
"...we will get the books and bookshops we deserve."-- Nathan Hollier.
Haven't visited any local bookshops for a very long time. In the past I frequented bookshops such as Scripture Union, Times, MPH, Kinokuniya and Borders. But I stopped.
For two reasons: price and quality. Books became too expensive and fewer interesting titles (as for me).
Many non-readers also lack time and interest.
Nathan Hollier, author of the article cited below, correctly observes, "What remains most important, when thinking about the health of the book industry here, is that no matter how cheap we make these products, there won’t be effective demand for them unless people have the time and desire to read."
Also, today's culture of efficiency encourages speed and no waste. Reading, in contrast, is a slow and wasteful process.
Books can only be read one page at a time. And when we read thoughtfully, we meander in and out of the page. One word, or a phrase, leads to a thought which leads to another and so on. Very soon we find ourselves thinking about something quite beyond the text.
“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you," explains Mortimer J. Adler.
A dreamy reader drifting reflectively is not necessary bad. The page of a book becomes a springboard to unsuspected horizons of meanings.
As Dr. Seuss in 'I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!' says, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
My reflections here is an example. I like to add myself into the text I read.
"“Isn't it odd how much fatter a book gets when you've read it several times?" ..."As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells...and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower...both strange and familiar.” -- Cornelia Funke, Inkspell.
So. How to nurture a desire for slow reading?
Nathan Hollier believes, "This desire, ... rests most powerfully on the belief that what one knows and says matters; that democracy, its public sphere, and reason, evidence and logic are the driving forces of one’s society."
A mindless society, an insipid culture, that doesn't read is dying. It's stuck in a once tried mode of existence. But is now as obsolete as a faded rose.
As they say, “You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
Before I end, a word from experience. Read to be challenged. This will keep up your interest in reading slowly.
In Kafka's words, “I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? .... A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.”
Build a personal, multifaceted library that suits your curiosities.
Read every day.
“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” -- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.
- Allan Bloom, Closing of the American Mind.
- Martha Nussbaum, Not for Profit. (In response to current education, she argues that we must resist efforts to reduce education to a tool of the gross national product ....in order to give students the capacity to be true democratic citizens of their countries and the world.)