September 4, 2006

"The pleasantest of all diversions is to sit alone under the lamp, a book spread out before you...."

"... and to make friends with people of a distant past you have never known."

That's another quote from the book -- "Essays in Idleness" -- mentioned at the end of the previous post.

Is this the sense that you have when reading a book, that this is the greatest pleasure and that you are making friends? Or do you think that a person who sits around reading all the time is not experiencing sufficient pleasure and needs to get out and interact with some real people and make some friends? Is there some way in which reading is a more intimate encounter with a human being than anything that can be done in person?

Kenko specifies the pleasure of befriending someone of a distant past you have never known -- like, for us, Kenko.

ADDED: And how many words must you change in that Kenko quote to make it about blogging?

17 comments:

Ron said...

I certainly don't read for pleasure, and I'm not makin' any friends here, either! I read because...I feel I must, I can't think of myself NOT reading. But pleasure? Intimacy? Ummm...no! Making myself into the person I choose to be is not about pleasure, and I doubt that I would even want that. I may derive pleasure from a particular book, but not from reading per se.

Man doesn't strive for pleasure, but the Englishman does. -- Nietzsche

SippicanCottage said...
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Ann Althouse said...

Sippican: Funny. And if I'd used the word "distant" for "deep" it would have been downright freaky.

SippicanCottage said...
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reader_iam said...

Is this the sense that you have when reading a book, that this is the greatest pleasure and that you are making friends?

My "handle" is sufficient answer to that one, for me, I think.

It's not "just" the books, for me. I take actual pleasure in the reading itself. It is physical and visceral and emotional as well as mental.

"It's not that I don't like people. It's just that when I'm in the company of others--even my nearest and dearest--there always comes a moment when I'd rather be reading a book.
--Maureen Corrigan

From Leave Me Along, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books.

reader_iam said...

"Along" should be "Alone," of course, in the book title.

And in case I haven't clarified recently, "reader_iam" is not a nod toward Dr. Seuss, but rather a twist on "I think, therefore I am."

Ruth Anne Adams said...
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Ruth Anne Adams said...
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Bensilly said...

is there some way in which reading is a more intimate encounter with a human being than anything that can be done in person?

imo, i think, not more intimate, but a different type of intimacy.

Tibore said...

"Is there some way in which reading is a more intimate encounter with a human being than anything that can be done in person?"

By that, do you mean encounter with the author? Or with the characters? If with the author, I'd say probably not. The book may be deeply, deeply personal and stamped with the author's own mindset and sensibilities, but the story the author spins is still not as revealing as seeing the author interact in the real world with real people not bound to a single narrative. Like a picture, there is still an act of pruning and cropping in a book that leaves out many details that would be used to form a complete picture of an individual. It's necessary; otherwise the story isn't really a story. At any rate, I do think that reading an author's book can be very highly intimate, especially if the author is very candid about him/herself, but I don't see it being any more intimate, and probably less so, than personal interaction.

Of course, for that opinion, I'm assuming equal time for each encounter, "book" encounter vs. personal. Exceptions exist, of course, and there would be times when reading an authors work will be much more intimate than a personal interaction if that interaction doesn't lend itself to candor or revelation.

Now, if we're talking about fictional characters, that may be different. Immersing yourself in a world with it's own logic, character, purposes, etc. can give you a deeply personal identification with and understanding of a character that is simply not possible in the real world. Because a fictional character, no matter how well drawn, is subject to only operating by internally consistent rules imposed by the story, there's a proactive, predictive understanding of that fictional character. On top of that, you get an insight to the fictional character's concious mind that no one could ever replicate in the real world unless telepathy were a reality; a fictional character in most cases is simply an open book. Contrast that to real humans: A person can understand another person, even in highly intimate situations (marriage, being a family member, etc.), but that person still has his or her own worldview, sensibilities, motivations, personality, etc., so there's still that tiny percent of a person that another can never see or know, no matter how intimate they are.

Tibore said...

"Kenko specifies the pleasure of befriending someone of a distant past you have never known -- like, for us, Kenko.

ADDED: And how many words must you change in that Kenko quote to make it about blogging?


Should it be changed? Blogging is soooo much about not just the present, but the instantaneous, here-and-now-this-very-second that I'm not sure we can compare niches.

MD said...

Reading, if I'm in the mood and reading the right thing, is a pleasure. A complete experience from the feel of the book to the papery smell of the pages, the rain on the window, the sound of the tea kettle. Stopping to make tea while the words from the page rattle around in my head so that I have to re-read what I've just read.....

(I like people and conversations and outings too much to think that my reading pleasure is intimate in the way a conversation with a good friend can be intimate. It's just an experience I enjoy, that's all).

JDM said...

I have been reading, I am told, for over 30 years now.

If I dont have a book (or usually more than one of different types - fiction, history, biography) "on the go" then I feel disquiet in my life.

As to changing the quote - how much of blogging is reading the comments others make to one's posts? The quote may not require amendment, simply a broader concept of book (and probably also of lamp than that Kenko had).

Wickedpinto said...

And how many words must you change in that Kenko quote to make it about blogging?

One, Change "Past" to "place"

amba said...

Is there some way in which reading is a more intimate encounter with a human being than anything that can be done in person?

This quote is extremely pertinent to blogging. Just as it might once have been to epistolary friendships.

It's a strange experience to meet someone in the flesh whom you've known only as a blogfriend. They (and you, to them) seem at first diminished by being embodied. It's as if the person were ore and the persona made entirely of words were the gold.

That's at first. Once you adjust it seems better to know them whole. But it's strange getting to know someone from the inside out.

The thing about writing to be read in the future, after you're dead (deliberately or not) is that only that gold bird you made of words, as Yeats said, will be what's left of you.

John Henry said...

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.

Inside of a dog it is too dark to read anyway."

Groucho Marx

This is on a coffe mug that Amazon sent me years and years ago when they were just starting out.

As someone mentioned, I can't imagine not reading either. I usually have 2-3 books going at the same time along with magazines, blogs, websites and whatall. I'll read a cereal box if nothing else is handy.

John Henry

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