Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Reading and crowding

Peter Carey is an Oxford professor and British novelist. Among his works is Pure Pleasure, Carey's list of the most pleasurable books to read. In addition to his topic, Carey has some interesting things to say in the introduction, Why Read? A Polemical Introduction

Given the possible scenarios - nuclear war, plague, famine - that can be expected before that point is reached, it may seem footling to speculate about the effect of population explosion on reading habits. But it is clear that, whatever the external disasters, people's attitudes to privacy and solitude are going to change - and that, of course, is where books come in. Reading admits you to an inner space which, though virtually boundless, is inaccessible to the multitudes milling around. This is likely to make it more precious and sought after as ordinary terrestrial space gets used up. At present the gap between people who read books and people who do not is the greatest of all cultural divisions, cutting across age, class and gender. Neither side understands the other. To non-readers, readers seem toffee-nosed. To readers, the puzzle is what non-readers fill their minds with. If in tomorrow's densely packed world reading becomes a lifeline to sanity for almost everyone, this gap will close - which will be a good thing for people as well as for books.

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