Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On the gifts of reading

Listening to the audio version of American Wife (Curtis Sittenfeld) this morning while cleaning the kitchen, I was struck by this passage.  Alice, the main character, is at the memorial service for her grandmother, a feisty Pall-Mall-smoking character who spent her days reading everything from Anna Karenina (multiple times) to pulp romances and drinking Old Fashioneds.  As the service concludes, Alice thinks:

Oh, how different my life would have been if I had not grown up in the house with my grandmother.  How much narrower and blander.  She was the reason I was a reader.  And being a reader was what had made me most myself.  It had given me the gifts of curiosity and sympathy, an awareness of the world as an odd and vibrant and contradictory place, and it had made me unafraid of its oddness and vibrancy and contradictions.  

It is difficult for me to imagine life without a love of reading, and the ability to find not just information but pleasure in the imagined worlds of literature.  Everytime I consider buying a movie ticket, I ask myself "Would I rather just buy a book?" and the answer is usually "Yes".   And Alice's grandmother's view of the retirement years definitely resonates with me.

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