Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Wonder of Reading

It is a wonderful gift to be able to read. It is something that we take for granted. Two things I read recently made me pause for thought.

1. I was reading a book by Leslie Stephen (father of Virginia Woolf) about 18th century literature where he points out that the vast majority of the readers were in London and they were an elite. Illiteracy was rife, not only London, all across England. So literacy as we know it is a relatively recent phenomenon. Even today most of the world's population is illiterate.

2. I was also reading another book on writers sharing their experiences of reading. The writer in question mentioned the influences from his reading and I had not heard of even one of the writers he mentioned!! This did not worry me unduly, but it does show that even with avid readers the points of intersection can be minimal or in this case, non-existent.

So we don't have a lot of readers and we have a literature that is so large that we can read all of our lives and still not intersect with what others are reading.

I have great hope that online education and outreach to illiterate areas will decrease illiteracy over time, but the second point about the volume of works will only increase. Writers are readers and more readers means more writers and thus more books written.

Not profound but interesting observations to me.


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