By Dale Salwak (eds.)
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Additional resources for A Passion for Books
I read it through almost without stopping, alternately enthralled by the heroism and disgusted by the treachery of the characters. I taught my sister the verses of the song, because she was still too young to read (I was six and she must then have been four). Neither of us could sing in tune, then, or now, but we belted out the words remorselessly, day after day, to what we imagined to be the tune of Clementine, just as the book prescribed: Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland, Beasts of every land and clime, Harken to my joyful tidings Of the golden future time.
One may read or write under all sorts of outside influences; one may be ordered to read or write something by one's church or political party. But one may also refuse and rebel; one may be froward or recusant. And because the act of reading is so private, even when carrying out the command, as a reader one can keep one's true thoughts to oneself. And once these powers - of open rebellion or of silent dissent - are acknowledged, it is difficult to deny the reality of the independent will at work.
And books, 'that noblest distraction,' can replace it, sometimes in direct, sometimes in subtle ways. Because I was born into a family with a strong practical cast, which I cannot shake off, nor want to, I have to ask myself what does all my reading mean? What does it come to? Again I ask: What is the point of spending so much time, on my duff, a book in my hand, reading vast quantities of lovely prose and poetry, much of which I shall probably forget? 18 Joseph Epstein I have asked this same question of my students.
A Passion for Books by Dale Salwak (eds.)