Monday, January 26, 2009

the art of reading

After hearing me complain about how unenjoyable Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse is to read (so far - too early to really judge), my friend Gautam sent me this essay about reading that Woolf wrote. It's amazing: If asked to describe the best way to read, I think I would make exactly the same points. Yet despite agreeing so thoroughly, even this short little essay was aggravating to read. It takes a special talent to come up with a writing style that uncomfortable.

Anyway, the points are worth repeating:
  1. While actively reading, you should be looking for what the author is trying to create. In other words, search for what is high quality about that particular book. This potentially requires conscious effort in order to break from preconceived notions of absolute quality.
  2. After reading, let it marinate in your subconscious, and form your reactions and feelings towards the book as a whole. Place the book in relation to other books you have read under whatever mental structure seems relevant and satisfying.
  3. (Not so explicitly expounded by Woolf) With your own mindset formed, enjoy the perspectives of others. Every book review or book club discussion let's you experience the book again from a slightly different angle, some more comfortable and some less, but all adding to your cummulative impression.