“Intensely Pleasurable and Also Hard”

by on April 6, 2011Posted in: Unrequired Reading

I’m way into this interview with The Use and Abuse of Literature author Marjorie Garber:

[A]ll reading is reading, and if you read with literary intention, if you pay attention to the particulars of language, to imagery, to sound, to figures of speech, then whether you’re reading the newspaper or a summer beach book or reading a chapter book to your children, there is something literary there. My book goes to some length to talk about how things become literary, become literature, that Shakespeare’s plays themselves were thought of as the opposite of canonical or important or even as literature in their time. When Bodleian funded the Bodleian library at Oxford, he wouldn’t allow stage plays to be there because they were riffraff, they were trash. Very often novels began as alternatives to serious reading (things like sermons or prayers and philosophical meditations) and these things have now made their way into the forefront of what we now call literature.

I don’t believe there’s a necessary divide between highbrow and lowbrow or whatever. I think that the habit of reading is intensely pleasurable and it’s also hard. The pleasure of it is partly the pleasure of detection, the pleasure of recognition, the pleasure of response. I think you can probably tell from the book that I’m very optimistic actually about the future of literature and literary reading—I’m far from despairing and I don’t actually feel that there’s a crisis. What we need is to continue to show the power of reading, the pleasure of reading—and, again, more people experience that than we are sometimes aware of. Also the power of writing, which is an analogous pleasure and power.

Read the entire interview, it’s worth your time.

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