Another ABC of Reading

Just back from what turned out to be a rather pleasurable week on the road — on which more, later, after the hectic last teaching & prep for Thanksgiving are done — but here, quickly a quote friend John Maas sent along earlier today, which does indeed feel like an accurate description of what reading can (should? must?) be:

From an interview conducted by Michael Silverblatt (worth listening to in toto) with novelist Zadie Smith on KCRW’s Bookworm program (quote transcribed by David Pescovitz on

But the problem with readers, the idea we’re given of reading is that the model of a reader is the person watching a film, or watching television. So the greatest principle is, “I should sit here and I should be entertained.” And the more classical model, which has been completely taken away, is the idea of a reader as an amateur musician. An amateur musician who sits at the piano, has a piece of music, which is the work, made by somebody they don’t know, who they probably couldn’t comprehend entirely, and they have to use their skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift that you give the artist and that the artist gives you. That’s the incredibly unfashionable idea of reading. And yet when you practice reading, and you work at a text, it can only give you what you put into it. It’s an old moral, but it’s completely true.

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