Reasons for reading

You would be a welcome addition to this department, Dear. And it is even conceivable now, since we no longer need to worry about that husband of yours as a devastating, possibly deal-breaking, spousal hire. You know about those, don’t you? In order to lure some particular academic prize-specimen to your department, you sometimes need to arrange a position for his or her spouse, who might not always quite merit it. It’s a deplorable but highly effective practice. It is not uncommon that two people in a relationship both think that the other is the spousal hire. Arguments may ensue. Terrific scenes may take place.

Speaking of what young people today (or twenty years ago, who can keep track?) would no doubt call “the Bloomster”, let’s just say that when Aristotle wrote about happiness as akin to the “Bloom on youth”, he certainly wasn’t referring to this wet blanket of a person.

I agree with what you say and, if I may, would like to take it further (or just as far as you did but in other words). For every reason for why you might read, there is a number of alternative approaches. This is particularly true if the object is to be interesting at dinner parties, as you would presumably have to be original in some regard to achieve the effect (unless you are at one of those parties where it suffices to have an opinion at all, or to have read a book. But you do not frequent those, do you?).

The project to read and read in a certain fashion in order to be amusing or able to take part of and contribute to conversations always strike me as a difficult one. One may read what everyone else already have, and try to have interesting opinions about that. Which is good, because they will know what you talk about, and you may offer new perspectives on it. Hard, because you have to somehow conjure up those perspectives. Alternatively, you may contribute by having read something that no-one else has. But why would they bother about that? Well, one reason is if the book is one they believe they ought to have read. Actually reading “Finnegans Wake” or “The Makings of Americans” makes you an instant expert on things your peers wish they’ve made it through first. Not only can you contribute insight they may then use to give the impression that they’ve read it to. No, more importantly: you, basically, win. The true conversation artist/bully is the one who can take any book not read by the others and by offering a view make them think that they ought to have read it or at least known about it. For full on mastership, do this with a book they have already read and make them realize they should re-read it.

I have some additions to make to your list:

Reading in order to avoid speaking to people on the bus. This is best done fervently, I find.

And, more to the point for our little venture:

Reading in order to stop the pile of books bought but not yet read from toppling over.

We need, in fact, to make another list of books and reasons, namely the list of books that you haven’t read and the many reasons why you haven’t, and possibly shouldn’t. We might find the end of our parade on that list to.

Are you quite well now, Dear? It certainly sounds that way, and I very much hope so.

your one and only


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