“Why are we reading if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?…Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness..?”
Why are we reading? What readers do we write for? And why, and how? Annie Dillard is an interesting writer. I don’t always like her and I don’t always agree with her, but she is interesting. I sometimes think she takes her art too seriously though. I have a taste for bad fiction, like a taste for sugar it intrudes on my good intentions and leads me down the candy aisle of bookstores, towards the books I love to hate. When I read them, it isn’t with any hope that beauty will be laid bare, or that life’s mysteries will be probed, I’m just looking for a good time. I’m not always the junk-food reader, in fact, I’m usually not, but I have to take that time into account when I look at why I read. It isn’t just in hopes the writer will magnify my days and inspire me with wisdom, sometimes books take the place of television for me, and I look for the literary version of reality t.v., sometimes reading takes the place of sleep and I want to recreate my dreams - mysterious and surreal, sometimes I really am looking for illuminating, life-lifting beauty and meaningfulness. Am I too fickle a reader or am I indicative of the norm?
“The body of literature, with its limits and edges, exists outside some people and inside others.”
If this is true, then the reader is attempting to absorb a bit of the body of literature, to allow it to fill and form him. The reader reads to bring the body into himself. But I don’t know. The ability to create art is inside some people and outside others, but “the body of literature” - the stories that some people can shape into art, are within everyone. They’re the shared experiences of humanity, in some people they live forever within, unable to be formed into literature, and in others they burst out, unable to resist becoming literature, but they belong to each person because of our shared humanity. Maybe I read to experience another person’s vision of life, good or bad, literature or trash, it’s interests me because of the person behind the words.