The Pleasure of Aimless Reading

article image

<p>

It’s one of the beauties of reading used books: Sometimes, you stumble across tangible evidence of the reader that preceded you. Maybe you find their old bookmark, a dedication from a friend, a note they made to themselves in the margins of a page. These scribblings are my favorite. They register, if only briefly, what someone else was thinking while they were reading, offering a window into the normally private interface between a person and their book.</p>
<p>
<i>The Bounty Farmer</i>
<a title=”found another reader’s musings” href=”http://goodjobbb.wordpress.com/2008/12/22/weekend-stubble/” target=”_blank”>found another reader’s musings</a> in an old copy of <i>
<a href=”http://www.julianbarnes.com/bib/fp.html” target=”_blank”>Flaubert’s Parrot</a>
</i>, but they’re not particularly illuminating. The notes match page numbers with the themes that interested this particular reader:</p>
<p>
<i>…101. Encyclopedia Britannica, 11<sup>th</sup> ed.</i>
</p>
<p>
<i>…150. That he was obsessed with style.</i>
</p>
<p>
<i>…193. Art & Life.</i>
</p>
<p>
<i>…208. do-it-yourself enema pump.</i>
<i>
</i>
</p>
<p>I’m not sure how to make sense of this chain of associations, and I wonder if the author of the list would be able to remember, either. But the cryptic annotations might give us something else. As <i>The Bounty Farmer</i> observes, they dovetail serendipitously with the tenor of the book, which follows a particularly fanatical reader of Flaubert. This narrator finds fault in overly critical approaches to books, and speaks up in favor of the casual reader’s tack:</p>
<p>
<i>
<span lang=”EN”>My reading might be pointless in terms of the history of literary criticism; but it’s not pointless in terms of pleasure. I can’t prove that lay readers enjoy books more than professional critics; but I can tell you one advantage we have over them. We can forget.</span>
</i>
<i>
<span lang=”EN”>
</span>
</i>
</p>
<p>
<span lang=”EN”>The list testifies to a more universal pleasure of reading–the joy of meandering through a text, guided only by the passages that capture your fancy in the moment. It’s a nice reminder that reading doesn’t need a goal; the act carries its own rewards.</span>
</p>
<p>
<p>
<i>
<span lang=”EN”>Image by</span>
<a href=”http://flickr.com/people/gadl/?search=gadl” target=”_blank”>Alexandre Duret-Lutz</a>
</i>
<i>
<span lang=”EN”>, licensed under <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en” target=”_blank”>Creative Commons</a>.</span>
</i>
</p>

UTNE
UTNE
In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.