an article -- you know, the vaguely alarming sort warning us of the horrible effects of our screen-world -- about how we're all forgetting how to read. We're incapable of long periods of concentration. Our digital lives are apparently robbing us of one of our oldest pleasures, paper books.
I was worried. I know my own reading habits -- half-hearted, fluffy, sporadic. I read for 15 minutes before drifting into sleep each night. I remember, in high school and college, reading a novel for hours, deeply engrossed in the story, the luxurious but painful fog that results when the book-world is done on the last page.
I hadn't read like that for years. Was my computer-life killing my book-life? Was it simply age? Was it maturity that morphed me from a fiction reader to a reader of biographies and personal accounts? Was it simply life, and raising four children and working and moving and facing the bright sunlight each day ... was that what turned me into a non-reader?
Does reading snatches of ideas, rants, what-I-ate-for-dinners, and happy blogposts count as real reading? Somehow I thought not. There is no immersion in such reading, no emotional involvement of the imagination, no willing suspension of disbelief. I feel no long-lasting quiver of delicious satisfaction when I snap my laptop closed, as I used to feel when finishing a good novel.
When we dashed to the beach last week I needed a book. I went to my dusty shelves and pulled one, Howard's End. I'd read it in college, which means I remember nothing of the book at all. I've seen the movie with Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, and Helen Bonham-Carter several times, but that (as we all know) means absolutely nothing. That's some director's and actors' version of a plot line. It has nothing to do with E.M. Forster's words, his style, his mind, his brilliance. They cannot be transferred to a screen.
What a delight it's been to read again! I still love a novel, and I thought I didn't. In fact, I appreciate Forster's genius more, and can discern it better in the text, than I could 30 years ago. Eight years of college and graduate school nearly robbed me of the delight of fiction reading because it was my forced diet. And ten years of high school English teaching nearly did the same. But now I can graze like a skittish cow again, returning to pastures long missed.
So I haven't forgotten how to read, I'm thankful to say. This morning, our last morning of formal homeschooling this year, I woke at 6:00, perched my reading glasses on my nose, rolled sideways in my warm bed, and read Howard's End for two hours. Now I'll go read some more.