The Art of Literary Conversation: ‘Why Read?’

[With acknowledgment to the creators of this ‘card game’ Keith Lamb and Louise Howland.]

Q: ‘Why Read?’

A: This is an question frequently asked by disinterested students, students who are so busy with their online presence they can’t conceive of spending time, by themselves, with their only distraction being their own imagination. And this seems to be true for certain adults, also. There is not enough time in the day to do everything, and so, an hour spent immobile – seemingly doing nothing – is considered an hour wasted, especially when there could be instant gratification from engagement online or TV.

But reading is, of course, central to every human being, even if that reading does not extend to an entire novel. We read all the time and have to, to survive. We read notices, signs, directions; we read facial expressions and body language; we read advertising and newspaper headlines; email and Yahoo sound-bites. We read to learn, to understand, to explore a world that is not always in our direct path, but affects us nonetheless. If we do not read the signs and signals, then we are in possible danger or ignorant of events over which we may have no control but will educate us somehow for the future. We do not need to experience every trauma, accident, or mistake but reading about such experiences enables us to formulate how we would respond should we need to and educates us on the best way to survive. Reading allows us to live vicariously through the experiences and decisions of others without any actual suffering on our part.
And so it is with reading fiction, which, I assume, is the main point of the question. Just as with learning through real-life readings, fiction has the same ability to teach life lessons and allows the reader to understand different ideals, morals, motivations, disappointments and judge their own responses to those of the character.
Why read? is not a good question: Do you dare not to read? is a far better one.

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Filed under Book review, General Thoughts, Writing Progress

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