Friends and Readers (was Tam Lin/Elitism)

Mary Ann Dimand amaebi at iwon.com
Wed Sep 13 00:57:12 EDT 2000


lizzie said:

> My older brother and I [readers] were both very considerate
> and basically kind. It's not that Robbie is mean, but he does
> do the kind of things, like tease shy, bookish girls, that
> made me hate fourteen year old boys when I was fourteen
> myself. I don't know why he doesn't read, but I can't help
> feeling that if he maybe did he wouldn't be so insensitive....

Ruth Rendell wrote a mystery based on this premise-- A Judgement in Stone. I
find it a tad sententious, but I have always been fascinated by the premise.
And I came, after consideration to agree that reading stimulates feelings
for one's fellow beings. In reading*, you learn of the feelings of others
from the inside in a simple and natural way. (Well, as natural as
translating symbols into words, and those into meanings, concepts and
stories gets.) There's no easier way to think about people in situations you
haven't known, or people very different from you.

I have no doubt at all that one can develop a sympathetic and empathetic
understanding without reading much. But-- perhaps because reading is such a
private affair nowadays, and is relatively non-visual-- there is more
emphasis on emotion and personality in many novels, biographies and poems
than in many movies. (Some movies, after all, seem to be about Explosions.)

Mary Ann


* Okay, maybe not Alain Robbe-Grillet. :D


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