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Reflections of a working writer and reader



What is Reading?

An interview with Pierre Bayard in The New York Times:

You write in your book about Montaigne, who confessed to having a poor memory and to forgetting about books he himself had written. Which leads you to ask: If we read a book and forget that we read it, is that the same as never having read it?

I think between reading and nonreading there is an indeterminate space that is quite important, a space where you have books you have skimmed, books you have heard about and books you have forgotten. You don’t have to feel guilty about it.

4 Responses to “What is Reading?”

  1. Suzan Abrams says:

    What an interesting post, John.
    But how about the drama of the memory.

    When asked to name my favourite books, I appear to recall only the habitual few. I forget the many remarkable tales which had changed my perceptions.

    Bates & Henry Williamson with their famous country tales slipped my mind for several years. One day, a certain scene brought it all back to my delight. I did feel remorseful that I had forgotten something beautiful.

  2. Paul says:

    To ask “what is reading” is a little like asking what is living. Unless you are blessed (?) with a photographic/encyclopeadic memory, then you pass from day to day forgetting most of what has happened to you in the past. Yet the memories are there, locked in your sub-conscious and all of your experiences are a part of who you are today.

  3. Jim Murdoch says:

    I’m not sure your article answers the question in your title (if it was even intended to) but both the title and the article intrigued me. I’ll probably end up blogging about them myself to work out my feelings. I have an awful memory (short-term and long-term) and although I’ve never forgotten a novel I’ve written I can’t say the same for poems or short stories. I can read a paragraph though and forget it immediately. So I had to read your whole blog a few times for it to sink in.

    Your second paragraph brings up the issue of how we read as opposed to what reading is. Can you read Proust the same way as Tom Robbins? A lot to think about. Nice post.

    jb says: I can’t read Tom Robbins, Jim.

  4. Pearl says:

    If we read a book and forget that we read it, is that the same as never having read it?

    If we write a book and forget we wrote it, is that the same as never having written it?

    If we take a bite and forget we ate it, is that the same as never having eaten?

    jb says: Depends, Pearl. Was it forbidden fruit?