Saturday, October 23, 2010
Readers, pseudo-readers and non-readers
That October is International School Library Month became part of my knowledge only this morning when I came across an article on the subject in The Hindu (Metroplus). Having gained this piece of knowledge, I called a librarian friend of mine and asked him, "Do you know when International School Library Month is observed?" "Who observes it?" he asked in reply.
On reflection, that seemed the right answer to the question. In a world where reading is fast disappearing, how does it matter when International School Library Month comes? "My only books", said Thomas Moore in the nineteenth century, "were women's looks, and folly's all they've taught me." A modern
may mourn: "My only books are the box's looks, and folly's all they've taught me." Moore
To be fair, however, there are readers and readers. For some, reading is a pleasure. I know a number of die-hard book-lovers who have grown up on grandmother's tales, on adventure stories, and on such all-time favourites as Dickens, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and P G Wodehouse -- and, of course, on the unavoidable (and inevitable!) Shakespeare and Shaw. They can read Macaulay and Gibbon with as much interest and excitement as they can R L Stevenson and P G Wodehouse. They wouldn't wax eloquent on their reading like Francis Bacon ("
maketh a full man"); they read for the simple reason that it gives them pleasure. Reading
For some, reading is a kind of penance. It is because they read books either in the hope of gaining some knowledge or for practical purposes, such as writing an examination. I know a person who looks at every new book with suspicion and wonders if it is good value for money and time.
There is a third group that consists of people who love books, who want to be able to say that they have read all the books worth reading, but who never manage to read any books. Typical of the "reading" style of this group is what a fellow teacher living in Chennai does: she goes to the British Council Library and borrows five attractive-looking books which have just entered the library, keeps them for a fortnight and then returns them unread.
Readers, pseudo-readers, and non-readers – well, it takes all sorts to make a world.