Friday, October 26, 2007

Reading and Writing: Only One Is Important

I’m a slow reader. Always have been. Even when I pored over John Grisham and Mario Puzo in the third grade—which would be remarkably precocious if I’d been reading them for any reason other than prepubescent thrill-seeking—I’d settle on a chapter for 45 minutes and then go to bed. Completing any book prompted a monumental celebration, followed by the dread and foreboding that accompanied my pacing up and down the fiction aisles at the Teaneck Public Library while I hunted for the next read.

I’m much better at continuing books than starting or ending them—starting means arousing enough determination to begin Chapter One, while ending means parting with a project that took weeks of concentration and commitment. Finishing a book is like sleeping with a girl, insofar as both are memorable victories fraught with pleasure, tribulation, patience, and surprise. And you can’t catch syphilis from a book, which is both the beauty and the boredom in reading.

Books, however, are inconsequential—you could live your whole life without reading one and be perfectly alright. The advertisement may claim that “reading is fun-damental,” but it’s not. Reading is something we all entreat ourselves to do, in hope of some short-term recreation and a heavier dose of long-term cognitive benefit. It’s a type of working out that doesn’t usually pay immediate dividends, whose value lies primarily in a future point that may or may not arrive. It’s beyond comprehension that there are so many Barnes & Noble bookstores sprinkled throughout New York, the one place of all the impatient metropolises wherein people never have the time to read. In fact, reading for pleasure has been replaced in New York City by a) reading for necessity on the subway—newspapers and work-related items; b) porn; and c) big-bicepped romance novels purchased on the top floor of a seedy bookstore; namely, porn. Manhattan literacy consists in the neurotic and erotic, while the novel and short story have long been forsaken.

I conveniently espouse that I prefer writing to reading. My reasoning is sound: it takes me virtually as long to read as it does to write, while writing is infinitely more proactive and exponentially more interesting. It also places me in total control, which, unlike finishing a book, is nothing like sleeping with a girl. I could either spend hours searching for the right book or minutes writing something of my own. Writing is easy—unlike playing music, construction, or most other things, it doesn’t require special skills. If you can talk, you can write. If you can think, you can write. If you can hold a conversation, you can write. If you ever speak to yourself, you probably should write. If music were writing, you’d only have to hum to compose a song. History’s “great writers” are just diligent thinkers, while those who claim that they can’t write are merely refusing to encode their sentient processes. Illiteracy or a language barrier is one thing, but, barring those, anyone could write something of import. Poke around Amazon or Blogger or the Onion, and it’s clear that writing only demands an expandable idea and a little free time. It’s just like masturbation, except without an orgasm. So it’s not like masturbation at all—but it is like sleeping with a girl.

Stay Slow, Reading
DJ Dawes Green

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