Friday, January 08, 2010

Bookish Relationships

I suppose, reading literature offers a couple a shared passion: something that connects them, even when they have differing opinions about the same author or book, and offers them a chance to compare and widen their learning. Reading literature can also give humans a stronger understanding of and empathy for others. As Atticus Finch tells his daughter Scout, you can never really understand people until you step inside their shoes. Great literature gives us the power to imagine what the world is like for people whose lives are vastly different from our own: it can challenge our prejudices and, if we're lucky, make us a little wiser, offering us a deeper understanding of what it sometimes means to be a living, individual human being.

On the other hand, there's ample evidence that voracious readers aren't always wise or empathetic characters. Hitler's library contained more than 16,000 volumes. Perhaps they were simply acquired and shelved to make an impression, given that his frequent expressions of megalomaniacal evil did not suggest the character of a quiet, settled, empathetic reader. Much has been made of Hitler's inappropriate appropriation of Nietzsche's philosophy, but I feel quite certain that if Hitler read Nietzsche at all, he must have skimmed over all the important bits, like Otto in A Fish Called Wanda.
Evan Maloney on The Guardian blog ponders the question of the efect of reading on our intimate relationships. How important is it that the one you love is a reader too, and does that make him/her a better lover?


miaomiao said...

i'd choose a reader as my partner. if not already, get her to like books. imagine a quiet weekend, all chores are done, resting on a couch. you open a book and start reading. while your partner, a non-reader, only want to have a meaningful deep conversation with you. hmmm... and that is why i'd choose a reader as my partner.

savante said...

My partner's been reading one book for the past year :) Takes a month to get past a chapter sometimes!

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