I just had a review of a post from last year, perhaps well meant but ultimately worth as little as most introductions. The best possible spirit I might have intended would have been to influence others to read a few titles they might otherwise miss out on.
But it really is and was more self-serving. It’s the reason I’ve stopped using GoodReads — it was working too well. I would fly through some work I hadn’t seen and inevitably compare how many others of my friends had read so much or so many pages or so well. In the best of worlds I hoped for discussions to emerge, much as I hoped when starting my prior blog and this one.
It’s just that I’ve begun to realise that these exercises are truly exorcisms. A good book provides new furrows for thoughts to follow along and test their footing, but much as with any path one soon finds oneself at the end of it with merely vague recollections of what marks led from there to here. If I don’t write notes and use these notes productively, it merely becomes fodder for me to show off.
And what is easier than showing off one’s book collection? or name-dropping to reference some idea? It is clothed in a chivalry of wanting to accost all with their due, but it serves to raise the name of the speaker as well ever so silently. A list allowed me to feel most satisfied when reading had come to an end — but I would not follow the next step of weighing carefully what value the going was worth.
And so the hubris exemplified by the maintaining of lists where interaction is desired — I hope to not be surrounded by like-minded people but rather to be surrounded by improving people: people for whom reading is less important than being read. I do not blog or read or write to win the praise of inferiors, but to discover how my understandings can be better — and to unleash the worst of my writing which must surely flow out of the pipe before healthy water can flow through the same lines.
It is when I am most freed from my reading that I am a worthy reader — a thoughtful traveler with mind and feet active; that is the quality of my reading cannot be described quantitatively and is not merely a mental exercise, but rather is fostering the engagements necessary to push out all weak and loose readings so that worthy footholds may be found. A writer is not free from words, but should have an end in mind better than his own. For thoughts may yet travel where names will fail to leave a tread-mark.
This is why I preserve writings — I may yet be warned lest my pointings indicate merely myself.