I’ve seen this quotation in several places lately. It’s from Sven Birkerts’ ‘The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age’:
“To read, when one does so of one’s own free will, is to make a volitional statement, to cast a vote; it is to posit an elsewhere and set off toward it. And like any traveling, reading is at once a movement and a comment of sorts about the place one has left. To open a book voluntarily is at some level to remark the insufficiency either of one’s life or one’s orientation toward it.”
To what extent does this describe you?
It is true that in reading voluntarily we "make a volitional statement,...cast a vote." Part of the joy and beauty of reading for pleasure is the very simple truth that we are able to choose what and when we read; this is why enjoying reading may be so shocking for so many people who suffered through their English classes in high school and college. They are shocked to discover what pleasure freedom of choice brings.
To a certain extent, we should have confidence in what we choose. It is our right as readers to read as we please; we do not have to explain ourselves (even though many of us do so in spite of this) because we have cast our vote and set off for our chosen destination.
Reading is often about escape but always about experience. My reading choices are not things that comment about my dissatisfaction with my life or understanding of my life. Rather, I have always thought of reading as something that enriches my life: it does not replace my experience, but neither does it belittle it. In fact, my life experiences are made more beautiful and meaningful because of what I read.
Reading can also bring comfort, both in the reading and in the remembering of the reading. It is so comforting to recognize yourself, a person in your life, or a circumstance you are experiencing in what you are reading. And, again, so often that reading can enlighten how I think about or react to someone or something.
SOS: Inexperienced blogger seeks help with adding buttons to her blog. It is sad, but true: adding buttons to my blog is still an ellusive concept that mystifies me. The almighty Google and Bing have failed me, so perhaps some of you could enlighten me? It surely can't be that difficult!