Tag Archives: Readers

What is Literature

What is literature? — It Is the personal preference of a writer (or a reader) for the works of certain writers: his idea of what should be described for a larger circle of readers as worthwhile reading. Ford Madox Ford says so in almost as many words:

“Let us then sum up literature as that which men [and women, presumably] read, and continue to read for pleasure or to obtain that imaginative culture which is necessary for civilisations. Its general characteristic is that it is the product of a poetic, an imaginative, or even merely a quaintly observant, mind. Since the days of Confucius, or the earliest Egyptian writers a thousand years before his time, there have been written in stone, on papyrus, wax, vellum, or merely paper, an immense body of matter — innumerable thousands of tons of it. This matter is divisible into that which is readable and that which is unreadable except by specialists in one or another department of human knowledge. The immediate test for one’s self as to what is literature and what is not literature — the ‘biblia a-biblia,’ as the Greeks used to call this last — is simply whether one does or does not find a book readable. But if a book has found readers for 2000 or 500, or merely 80 or 2O years, you would be rash, even though you could not read it yourself, to declare that it was not literature — not, that is to say, a work of art. . . . But for the judging of contemporary literature the only test is one’s personal taste. If you much like a new book, you must call it literature, even though you find no other soul to agree with you, and if you dislike a book, you must declare that it is not literature, though a million voices should shout to you that you are wrong. The ultimate decision will be made by Time.”

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The Price of Literary Glamour and Glitz

Glamour and glitz of literary festivals comes with a price, “And the most expensive item on the bill is the transformation of writers into performers, authors into salesmen. […] For them it is promote or perish. Writers these days have to have their own websites, be active on Facebook, send off tweets every few hours and generally be as visible as possible. Lest the reader forgets him and goes off with whoever is grabbing their attention at that moment.

However

, “The best expression of a writer’s thoughts has to be in his writings, not in his spoken words. That is why he or she has chosen the lonely, uncertain life of a writer.”

We readers too can be like them, by opting to walk the solitary path of reading. If we are content to judge authors by their works and not their personalities, if we are ready to put substance over style, then Lit Fests would lose their relevance. Honestly, how can something as intimate as a novel be turned into a successful live event?

From: firstpost.com/living/literary-festivals-are-anti-reading-why-lit-fests-are-for-performers-not-writers-2542596.html

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Infinite World Awaits Your Discovery

When we read books our world becomes infinite:

“We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books…. in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like a night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.” C. S. Lewis, in: An Experiment in Criticism

From: lifehacker.com.au/2014/11/cs-lewis-on-reading-literature-those-who-dont-inhabit-a-tiny-world/

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How to tend to Book Cemeteries

“When the Britains and America are fused into one book market; when it is recognized that letters, which as to their material and their aim are a high-soaring profession, as to their mere remuneration are a trade; when artificial fetters are relaxed, and printers, publishers, and authors obtain the reward which well-regulated commerce would afford them, then let floors beware lest they crack, and walls lest they bulge and burst, from the weight of books they will have to carry and to confine. …

A vast, even a bewildering prospect is before us, for evil or for good; but for good, unless it be our own fault, far more than for evil. Books require no eulogy from me; none could be permitted me, when they already draw their testimonials from Cicero and Macaulay. But books are the voices of the dead. They are a main instrument of communion with the vast human procession of the other world. They are the allies of the thought of man. They are in a certain sense at enmity with the world. Their work is, at least, in the two higher compartments of our threefold life. In a room well filled with them, no one has felt or can feel solitary. Second to none, as friends to the individual, they are first and foremost among the compages, the bonds and rivets of the race, onward from that time when they were first written on the tablets of Babylonia and Assyria, the rocks of Asia minor, and the monuments of Egypt, down to the diamond editions of Mr. Pickering and Mr. Frowde. …

The purchase of a book is commonly supposed to end, even for the most scrupulous customer, with the payment of the bookseller’s bill. But this is a mere popular superstition. Such payment is not the last, but the first term in a series of goodly length. If we wish to give to the block a lease of life equal to that of the pages, the first condition is that it should be bound.” But, “bound or not, the book must of necessity be put into a bookcase. And the bookcase must be housed. And the house must be kept. And the library must be dusted, must be arranged, should be catalogued. What a vista of toil, yet not unhappy toil! Unless indeed things are to be as they now are in at least one princely mansion of this country, where books, in thousands upon thousands, are jumbled together with no more arrangement than a sack of coals; where not even the sisterhood of consecutive volumes has been respected; where undoubtedly an intending reader may at the mercy of Fortune take something from the shelves that is a book; but where no particular book can except by the purest accident, be found.

Such being the outlook, what are we to do with our books? Shall we be buried under them like Tarpeia under the Sabine shields? Shall we renounce them (many will, or will do worse, will keep to the most worthless part of them) in our resentment against their more and more exacting demands? Shall we sell and scatter them? as it is painful to see how often the books of eminent men are ruthlessly, or at least unhappily, dispersed on their decease.

Without answering in detail, I shall assume that the book-buyer is a book-lover, that his love is a tenacious, not a transitory love, and that for him the question is how best to keep his books. I pass over those conditions which are the most obvious, that the building should be sound and dry, the apartment airy, and with abundant light. And I dispose with a passing anathema of all such as would endeavour to solve their problem, or at any rate compromise their difficulties, by setting one row of books in front of another. I also freely admit that what we have before us is not a choice between difficulty and no difficulty, but a choice among difficulties. …

Clearly these masses, and such as these, ought to be selected first for what I will not scruple to call interment. It is a burial; one, however, to which the process of cremation will never of set purpose be applied. The word I have used is dreadful, but also dreadful is the thing. To have our dear old friends stowed away in catacombs, or like the wine-bottles in bins: the simile is surely lawful until the use of that commodity shall have been prohibited by the growing movement of the time. But however we may gild the case by a cheering illustration, or by the remembrance that the provision is one called for only by our excess of wealth, it can hardly be contemplated without a shudder at a process so repulsive applied to the best beloved among inanimate objects. …

Undoubtedly the idea of book-cemeteries such as I have supposed is very formidable. It should be kept within the limits of the dire necessity which has evoked it from the underworld into the haunts of living men. But it will have to be faced, and faced perhaps oftener than might be supposed. And the artist needed for the constructions it requires will not be so much a librarian as a warehouseman.

But if we are to have cemeteries, they ought to receive as many bodies as possible. The condemned will live ordinarily in pitch darkness, yet so that when wanted, they may be called into the light. Asking myself how this can most effectively be done, I have arrived at the conclusion that nearly two-thirds, or say three-fifths, of the whole cubic contents of a properly constructed apartment may be made a nearly solid mass of books: a vast economy which, so far as it is applied, would probably quadruple or quintuple the efficiency of our repositories as to contents, and prevent the population of Great Britain from being extruded some centuries hence into the surrounding waters by the exorbitant dimensions of their own libraries.”

How best to tend to these book cemeteries, according to William Ewart Gladstone: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3426

Readers vs Non-Readers

“The world is divided between readers and non-readers – and the difference between the two is enormous and unbridgeable.

Readers absorb; non-readers broadcast.

Readers know stuff; non-readers are running on empty.

Readers are curious; non-readers aren’t.

Readers are obsessed with the world beyond themselves; non-readers are self-obsessed.

Reading, like any addiction, has its problems. Once you discover that the best books are better company than most people, you can lose patience with the company of most people. To be caught without a book or a paper in a queue, at an airport or on a train, is extreme agony.The cure for the addiction, though, is easy – always have a book or paper on you; and do your best to minimise your time in the company of boring people – themselves almost always non-readers.”

From: blogs.telegraph.co.uk

Why Readers Like Books

“For an important intellectual product to be immediately weighty, a deep relationship or concordance has to exist between the life of its creator and the general lives of the people. These people are generally unaware why exactly they praise a certain work of art. Far from being truly knowledgeable, they perceive it to have a hundred different benefits to justify their adulation; but the real underlying reason for their behavior cannot be measured, is sympathy.”

Thomas Mann, Death in Venice:

http://archive.org/stream/DeathInVenice/DeathInVenice-ThomasMann_djvu.txt

Hidden Symbolism in Literature

“Reading became like dreaming in that well-written compositions act much like dreams in the sense that certain things are disguised or concealed so that a reader can accept the profound message being given.

The whole purpose of this is so that a reader will learn something new or have their perception challenged. If this new thought could infiltrate the reader’s initial ego defense, still disguised, it could finally give the reader an opportunity to analyze and translate the information.I like to admit that there is a need for change in the world — there always has been.

I firmly believe that the more we study literature, the more we begin to challenge our bound perception, to shun ignorance and to scorn those who still hold to outdated intellectual fashions.Our minds and stigmas can be greatly healed by that which is hidden in literature. The sooner we begin to try and understand the truth in literature, the sooner we will understand ourselves, and the world can begin to heal.”

More: m.redandblack.com

How readers choose books

“When it comes to choosing books to read, the majority of our decisions are based on heuristics of one sort or another, including:

cover design
typography
genre
author
title
imprint or publisher
friends’ recommendations
reviews
star ratings
whether it’s part of series
plot summary
endorsements from other authors
date it was published
quotes from the book
paper quality (for print books)
photo of the author
adverts
interviews with the author

The problem is, many of these heuristics are flawed.

Let’s get down and dirty with what really matters in a book: The words and whether they speak to us. The only real way we can choose between books is to begin to read them, and if publishers want us to fall in love with their books, they have to make at least the first chapter available for free online.”

More: forbes.com

Faking It, or sticking it to the establishment

“the literary fake—a piece of fiction that pretends in some way to be true. Is it fact or fiction? Is it good fun or something more disturbing? By operating under the auspices of traditionally nonfictional modes to tell its story, the literary fake chooses to bring the reader to suspension of disbelief through means that include extreme guile—and, in cases where the reader recognizes the trick, continues to amuse, entertain, and say something interesting about the human condition regardless. As such, it destabilizes our view of reality, which can be uncomfortable, sometimes unforgivable, especially if we think someone is laughing at us. We don’t always appreciate things that look like other things, even if there’s a purpose to the mimicry; perhaps this is a vestige of an ancient evolutionary trait that allowed us to discern between the harmless and the harmful.

Nor do some readers, apparently, like to think they are being made to believe something false against their will. Fakes are especially divisive at two essential moments in time: when they slip past the reader’s defenses and when the reader discovers the deception. Whether this latter point occurs soon after picking up the book or halfway through it, a literary fake eventually forces the reader to decide whether to be sympathetic or hostile toward the fakery.”

But writers may be onto something when they fake it:

“Fakes […] can be a form of guerilla warfare against the establishment, acting out against the artificiality and sheer bureaucratic impulse that animates much of modern book culture. Naturally, then, a fake can “disturb the guardians of literary studies, book-reviewing, and the literary awards system.”

More: http://www.newhavenreview.com/index.php/print-editions/the-art-of-the-literary-fake-with-violin/

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