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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Don't just sit there - do something!

Whenever my parents came across me reading a book, which was most of the time, I alwayd had the feeling that they were within a moment of saying 'Why don't you stop reading and do something?' Not that they minded my reading, or did anything to discourage me; but they weren't readers themselves, in any real sense - Dad took the Daily Express ,but was entirely bemused by Beachcomber, whose wonderful column he simply didn't understand), and Mum occasionally looked at a women's magazine (always referred to as a 'book.' And it was always 'I'm looking at my book' rather than 'I'm reading', as though shameful time-wasting was going on).. But though there was a bookcase behind the settee, the books - a miscellaneous collection of gardening dictionaries and ill-bound novels on bad paper - to one of which, however, I believe I owe my forename) - were never discturbed. The point they missed, of course, was that reading is 'doing something' in the most profound sense - and having something done to one; the mind active, and the book changing the mind, adding to it, correcting and modifying it. The current critical fashion suggests that a reader brings as much to a book as the book brings to the reader; I've never believed this and would never want to believe it. Now, in my ninth decade, I am spending more time that ever 'doing something' by reading which is infinitely more valuable to the remaining years I have than combing the dogs, cleaning the coffee machine or (god help us) polishing my shoes.

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