One of my fave part-time lecturers walked in the other day to borrow a video. It had been sometime since I saw her and it is always good fun to hear what she had to say. She told me about this very earnest and conscientious student who came up to her one day, pointed out his marked assignment and asked her to help him improve his English. She thought his work ok, no grammar mistakes but could do with some refinement and some more indepth analysis. She asked him whether he had been reading widely; you know, the usual suspects – newspapers, magazines. Earnest replied that he is a subscriber to Asian Wall Street Journal, The Economist and Newsweek. He had the works. My friend, the lecturer, paused, thought for a moment and said maybe he should read a book. Not just read but to get back into reading with pleasure and joy. “It was like a Eureka moment for him. You could see his eyes lighting up!”, she said, her voice rising an octave. Earnest told her that he had not read for pleasure for a long time. Since secondary school, he’s always been reading for schoolwork. Reading meant getting some paper or project done. He walked away slowly and hopefully, towards the P section at Central Library.
My friend and I then started thinking of the books we have been reading. She reads the books listed by National Library in a section in Straits Times. I guess she hasn’t quite lost that habit of reading for pleasure. Me? I confess I have not been reading for pleasure these past few years. The newspapers and some magazines, yes. But not books that brought me the thrill of a well-crafted story.
Out of the blue a few weeks ago (nothing to do with our dear Earnest, mind you), I decided not to switch on the TV when I get home from work. Not even for the news. I spent the evening reading, first the newspapers and then a book. If I didn’t feel like reading that particular book, I chose another one. And another. I rediscovered Edith Wharton. The lady sure knows how to write a story. And sadly, I discovered that Sue Townsend has not been able to bring back the fun and humor of her Adrian Mole days. Now, I am reading some thing really trashy – some romance-thriller thing that involves an anti-terrorist operative and an art restorer. It wasn’t particularly well-written, the characterization was unrealistic and the story is a bit silly. But it still brings pleasure albeit in a sort of mindless, trashy way.
Anyway, to all you Earnests out there – read and let read!