Saturday, November 18, 2006

Zadie Smith on reading

I came across a quote from a Zadie Smith interview on KCRW. It was so dead on it made me feel shameful about my reading career. Then less shameful as I thought about the reading habits of others I know (with a few exceptions). But still, damn:

"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."


I feel sad that the book that started my reading career as a kid was a novel adaptation of Return of the Jedi.

In any case, to be faced with a challenge is a good thing. In literature, you can run against some walls. Some people take this as an opportunity to say "this sucks" and toss the book into the fireplace and that's that (and sometimes funny).

What is lost is that there are indeed plenty of rewarding returns that are missed if you approach a piece of literature (or indeed music) like something consumable and disposable. People lose a sense for subtleties, word play, exposition and other forms of mind-expansion. Leaving behind a lack of imagination.

The alternative is just to try again. Attempt to understand. Don't be discouraged.

The same goes for other forms of art from which people demand instant entertainment. Music, film, painting, etc.

i wasn't planning on being so preachy, it shows my amateurnessocity, it was not what i originally wanted to say. But its not like i draft or edit these posts. I just find it annoying when people give up their right to think.

Anyway, rock on Zadie. Great analogy.

"it can only give you what you put into it" sums it up nicely, for morsel's sake.

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this piece of easily digested media was made possible by:
Boing Boing

who got this from

Michael Smith's Orange Crate Art

who transcribed the source (after getting it from kottke.org) : an interview with Zadie Smith on KCRW

1 comment:

Airport said...

I like the "made possible by", but you forgot to mention the most important support of readers like me.