Sunday, July 12, 2009

Reading, ought and want

Ought and want have always been a dilemma for me since I have that deep seated little voice that says you ought to know this for your own good, versus the other that says enjoy yourself it's later than you think. Well it is late I confess! Time is limited and the hours expended by reading a book that is uninspiring is time wasted. If you prize time the need to be selective is important . It drives some of my loved ones crazy that I often read the first ten pages and the last ten pages first, to decide if I will put in the time to read the book. It's a little like wine tasting or sampling the food. It's not often that you go wrong with this technique. Do I read Paradise Lost which I feel I should know, or John Grisham which I know will keep me awake? One is exciting, can be read in an evening and makes a good movie. The other is ponderous, difficult, but something I believe I should read once. On the other hand I will never read a John Grisham novel twice because it's easy to remember, but the complexities of Paradise Lost will need to be reread. Cognitive dissonance! Milton would be probably better in the weekly group I attend where we read together ,monitored by our mentor John, a Middle English scholar,very Socratic, and therefore of course, interactive. All good literature, from any age, is contemporary in mind and heart, but you have to learn the style, to discern the nuance! With Middle English the style and the vocabulary are a struggle, though good translations abound. I must confess that good literature sometimes is too taxing for my brain if I read alone. If we read as a group together, in short segments, and then deconstruct the segment we have read, at length, then the work becomes alive and immediate! I'm not always sure what good literature is! That is a subject that we have discussed and definitions are not self evident. Forget the critics! Good literature for you is what makes you cry. What makes you joyful. What enlarges your soul. What you remember later and may dream about. Thoughts that tax your mind and stay with you. What changes your attitude and your action. What touches you. I think there is room for both the oughts and the wants in your lifetime of reading. If you stick to classical literature with the help of good groups, and contemporary literature that you vet by author or sampling, you will minimize your wasted hours. Any age can be an age of enlightenment and enjoyment!

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