Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The experience of reading

There is a paragraph in Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand about how reading changes the experience of the world. I don’t have the book anymore, chucked during one of my moves, so I can’t quote the paragraph, even though I can see the type against the rough-textured paper of a cheap sci-fi paperback, but I do remember that the main character enters a city and his experience of seeing it is made more “resonant” because he had read descriptions of the city’s skyline.

I remembered that paragraph while reading a description of Saipan, in Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy. John Bowe, the author, writes about the self-pitying, delusional citizens of Saipan and I thought: Almayer’s Folly! Joseph Conrad! --the same mentality of self-deceptive losers feeling superior because colonialism gives them a little bit of power. I don’t know if John Bowe has read Joseph Conrad, but I do know that my appreciation for Conrad’s understanding of power enlarged Bowe’s straight reportage of an island and its social structure created by capitalism.

Of course, our library catalogs cannot support those kind of linkages, but the incident pointed out to me the importance of our library work. Lorcan Dempsey’s blog has musings on this topic and others. I recommend following his entries at http://orweblog.oclc.org/

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

Thanks for a wonderful post, Jackie! I really have enjoyed both the radio interview of Maryanne Wolfe & her book Proust & the Squid, that you blogged about. I love thinking about how reading works and the effects it has on our brains and our thinking. I will watch this OCLC blog by Lorcan Dempsey with great interest.