Zadie Smith On Reading

18Nov06

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I read for work last night, but it was a screenplay, not a book. I hadn’t planned on posting when I read a screenplay (because it’s hardly reading), but I woke up this morning and Boing Boing linked to a quote from Zadie Smith about reading. Perfect.

But the problem with readers, the idea we’re given of reading is that the model of a reader is the person watching a film, or watching television. So the greatest principle is, “I should sit here and I should be entertained.” And the more classical model, which has been completely taken away, is the idea of a reader as an amateur musician. An amateur musician who sits at the piano, has a piece of music, which is the work, made by somebody they don’t know, who they probably couldn’t comprehend entirely, and they have to use their skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift that you give the artist and that the artist gives you. That’s the incredibly unfashionable idea of reading. And yet when you practice reading, and you work at a text, it can only give you what you put into it. It’s an old moral, but it’s completely true.

I completely agree. I’m drawn to challenge myself to read older books because now that I have more life experience and more reading experience, I want a rich, complex experience. I wrote off Austen and Dickens in the ninth grade in a sublimely stupid move. When I decided to give them a try just a few years back, I fell in love.

Next book that sits on my library bookshelf:

Fever 1793, the last of the Laurie Halse Andersons. Fever is a well-researched YA novel about a young girl coping with the yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia.

Fever 1793

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2 Responses to “Zadie Smith On Reading”

  1. 1 Wesley Dumont

    What’s a YA novel?

  2. Young Adult.


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