Reading rights

Magdalena Waz

Somehow, I’ve received comments and questions pertaining to my column. It was a pleasant surprise, but now, I feel obligated to answer those brave people who took the time to read what nonsense I’ve written and then e-mail me.Dear Maggie,
I’m having some trouble finding time to read books for pleasure. I can barely keep up with the reading I do for class! Help me organize my time!
-Hiett 417 Resident

I know the feeling, resident of Hiett 417. It’s difficult to bring yourself to open another book after you’ve read over a hundred pages already. Like me, you probably have the urge to lean back and play some Call of Duty with your friends. This is okay. It is normal behavior. You shouldn’t feel as if I’m pressuring you every week to do work on top of your homework, because then you wouldn’t have any time for the rather pleasurable activities of throwing a sticky grenade or sniping from a tall building.
But I will say one thing: You are already reading. Many of us are diligent homework-doers, but see that as an excuse to say the oft-used phrase “I don’t have time to read.” You just finished, I believe, an article about “The Russian Idea”? Was that not reading? Your eyes slid across the page with what I presume was understanding. You were reading the writing of other people. I commend you.

Dear Maggie,
I feel as if you’re running out of steam. Perhaps you should expand your column to cover book reviews and suggestions for what we should actually be reading. We’ve been set afloat on a sea of interesting ideas about how our culture doesn’t value reading much anymore, but how do we change that?
-Practical

Of course you’re right, Practical, on some level. You see, I am convinced that what I write is sort of a sham, something to fill space in a paper few students actually seem to read. And so, I get lazy, and I backpedal. In my first ever Reading Rights column, I wrote, “The reading of fiction has been relegated to classrooms.” This is something I was apparently concerned with in April of 2010.
Now, if you’ll look above to my response to the resident of Hiett 417, I don’t even bother to make the distinction between fiction and non-fiction, academic articles and stories written for the stories and not the education they might provide. Because after having thought and thought about this, I’ve not once come up with a possible solution.
I believe that the Internet is a culprit, but I wouldn’t give it up for the world. The printed newspapers I bring up to my room stay unopened until I’ve got time for a crossword puzzle, but I read news websites. I don’t read contemporary fiction when I need a break. I look at handmade items on etsy.com because I consider that, too, to be a worthwhile venture.
Perhaps it is unreasonable of me to assume that the number of gadgets and conveniences introduced over the decades we’ve been alive would not change our desire to read what other people are saying. But it appears that the things that were supposed to give people more free time have become so intrinsic to our society that now we cannot untie ourselves.
When I was young, I imagined that it was my duty to read and protect every book that fell into my lap.
I was lucky to have at least one friend who felt the same way, and we spent countless hours in Barnes & Noble reading books in large comfortable chairs next to a display of Bill Clinton’s autobiography, drinking Frappuccinos.
Doesn’t that sound like it could also offer the same amount of fun as shooting your friend in the face in order to get a helicopter? And of course, there shouldn’t be any reason why we can’t do both.

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