Friday, October 15, 2010
The Lost Art of Reading
You might expect a lot of librarians and bibliochretics (“users of books”, what the Naval Research Laboratory called its first librarian) to weigh in on David L. Ulin’s The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time. Caveat – I am not a librarian, I just play one at work.
This compact book (153 pages) is a short but in-depth read. Ulin tackles the topic by discussing his son’s assignment to read The Great Gatsby (and the son’s decided lack of enthusiasm for the reading process). He then wends his way through his younger years, finding treasured nuggets of books almost everywhere to escape the mundane real world in which he was forced to participate.
As he grew, Ulin found that while books still occupy his time, they don’t occupy his mind as much as they had previously. He considers not only the impact of this mindset on what we read but how we perceive the process of reading and how we experience the story within the book. With ever-changing technology, a story can be experienced in ways the author never conceived.
As I read, I had visions of the Twilight Zone episode, “Time Enough at Last”, with Burgess Meredith as a book lover who is constantly prevented from reading by those in his sphere. After everyone else is wiped out by war, he thinks he can read as much as he wants for the rest of his life. His happiness is short-lived, however, because he drops his glasses, breaking the lenses and his hopes for a book-filled future. Perhaps Ulin and we relate – all the books at our fingertips but just beyond our reach.