Alastair Harper on The Reader as Outlaw

| 2/13/2009 2:00:59 PM

reader“I was never an avid reader until I was 11 or 12,” writes Alastair Harper on the Guardian Books Blog. "Before I started reading," he remembers, "I was a rather subservient, slow little boy who never really did anything wrong, but never did much right either. Books inspired me to be very naughty indeed; and, with the simple moral logic of youth, I perceived them to be on my side, not authority's, which was what made me want to read them.

Harper is responding to a flurry of public projects aimed at getting more kids to read. These initiatives tend to assume that reading is edifying, producing well-behaved, wholesome citizens, a logic Harper doesn’t really understand.

"Perhaps a little bit of literature does make you well-mannered," he concedes sarcasticly. "A sprinkling of Austen will probably be fine. But the government should point out that an excess of reading can be very dangerous indeed. Acknowledge that many books are far more horrifying, perverse and immoral than anything in Grand Theft Auto. Perhaps print warning labels on dust jackets. Now, if that happened, a real children's reading revolution would begin!"

Image by Pedro Simões, licensed under Creative Commons.

(Thanks, Bookninja.)

Sources: The Guardian Books Blog, Bookninja

2/23/2009 7:13:27 PM

well, yes, i agree with this idea that books are more likely to cause subversion than goody-two-shoes conformity...but, I would also suggest strongly that Austen provides ample material in her stories for anger, dissent and subversion...Sense and Sensibility cannot but stir up indignation in a young reader, that "conformity" and the social pressure to adhere to it can produce such miserable losers as those in the story who abandon even their own for the sake of looking good and getting ahead...nope, Austen is hardly an advocate of behaving yourself, rather I have found her to be a sharp and icisive critic of the status quo...

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