Sunday, November 19, 2006

Zadie Smith on reading

Tangential (thought not terribly) to the subject of the previous post is this, from an interview with British novelist Zadie Smith:

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.

(Hat-tip: the Internet generally, but my source is Clusterflock)


fearful_syzygy said...

Somebody write that down.

R. Sherman said...

Not so tangential, after all. The community college where the EMBLOS teaches has three levels of college reading courses to try to teach precisely this, i.e. how to interact with what one reads.