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16. Why Read?

Reading, both for me and for others it turns out (see Why Read? no. 15), is so heavily entrenched in my brain as a morally acceptable activity that the title of this offering could just as well as be: “why I choose to devote my life to the homeless”. Putting myself forward as a representative member of the reading as opposed to the non-reading gang feels an awful lot like showing-off (perhaps because in all sincerity I just know that we’re better: the Sharks to their Jets, the mustard to their Ketchup, the Rhetts to their Ashleys). Perhaps this sense of moral superiority is sufficient reason to read, especially as it’s often free. Though my standard 2:1 ratio of romantic, preferably teenage, slimline volumes to weighty cerebral tomes does undermine my lofty heights somewhat.

Luckily, there is another reason why I read. In fact, there are two more. The first is notably revealing about the author but here goes: reading minimises the time I have to sit and think, a very dangerous occupation, responsible to my mind for a huge number of social ills and the declining quality of the female in the modern era. I read books feverishly, hardly digesting a word, often unable to recall their plot a mere week later. It seems likely this isn’t something to advocate but I like it. I need it. The second reason is the good one though: reading results in an enormously bolstered faith in Mankind, courtesy of the surefire confirmation that a breed of superior beings exist who can write beautiful prose and what’s more, that most people and most things are interesting if you can just capture their angle. As I never really plan what to read next but tend to just pick up something lying around at my parents’ house, it is inadvertently that I have discovered that bull-fighting is interesting, as are lots of wars and recluses and 18 year olds and 73 year olds and whales (ish) and egomaniacs and dust-bowls and sometimes even children. I won’t get into the entangled reinforcement of religious faith here (All good gifts around us): three reasons will suffice.

Evelyn Amory

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