Tuesday, June 08, 2010

How Harper Became a Reader

Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books. Instant information is not for me. I prefer to search library stacks because when I work to learn something, I remember it. ... And, Oprah, can you imagine curling up in bed to read a computer? Weeping for Anna Karenina and being terrified by Hannibal Lecter, entering the heart of darkness with Mistah Kurtz, having Holden Caulfield ring you up–some things should happen on soft pages, not cold metal.
Fifty years after she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee writes about how she became a reader for the Summer Reading edition of Oprah's O Magazine, and as you see above, some poignant comments about being a reader now. You can find the whole text of her letter here.

(Thanks v much Amir M for telling me about this.)


Chet said...

What a coup for Oprah! As the MSNBC link notes, a rare published item.

Greenbottle said...

what a lovely lady she is!!!!

the other day i saw a good question in paris review. It says "how do i get my reading mojo back?" or something like it.

to keep a good reading habit in this age of ipod iphone tweeter and facebook is a challenge....many of us including booklovers are finding it harder to remain enthusiastic about books. i realize that i don't read as much as before and much to my surprise i find that i prefer to read banal and retarded status updates on facebook or 'read' political blogs and pick fights on cyberspace than reading books.

i find it difficult to be a "good reader" these days...i too don't know how to get my reading mojo back.

bibliobibuli said...

oh, Greenbottle, you as well? in my case i think i just got constipated up with have-to reads i was half-hearted about. so now i am reading just stuff i fancy and short stories and non-fiction. all reading now is purely for pleasure.

Borneo Expat Writer said...

I got my reading mojo back in the toilet! Laugh if you want, but I turned an applalling non-reading habit of books that stretched for years while living in Penang, to reading in the toilet in Kuching (call it multi-tasking) and I'm averaging 50 books for three years in a row!

I also read while waiting in lines, waiting at the clinic. I also stopped reading the newspaper -- all it did was make me feel guilty about not reading it. Now I get my news online, in Newsweek, and what I glean from conversations with others. I don't miss the newspapers, but I did miss reading books.

95 percent of that has been non-fiction, but, oh, I'm learning a lot and that'll make me a better writer!

So get your own reading mojo back anyway you can! So the next time you're heading for a non-squat toilet bring a book along (and not your notebook and Facebook!).

It's getting started on a new book that's the hardest. Once you get started you'll be well on your way to finishing it in a more comfortable local. I proved it for myslef here in Sarawak!

bibliobibuli said...

the last time we debated reading in the loo, i was told that it can give you piles!

Borneo Expat Writer said...

Who's talking about reading in the loo for hours! 15 minutes here and there adds up, enough time to jumpstart a book you've been thinking about reading. Then continue to read it elsewhere!

What's important is to get back in the reading habit. Before I used to read magazines in the loo, but once I started to read books I finally got back to reading and finishing books. Do whatever works to get yourself back into the reading habit, get back the reading mojo.

Before, the biggest timewaster was TV. Now it's the internet, mindlessly surfing hours away that could well be spent reading or talking with your spouse or playing with the kids, or writing!

Now to write you have to wade through a minefield of pop-ups ads and attention grabbing headlines a click away. Lately I was in a writing slump and that's where my writing time went. It was horrible -- all that temptation and news stories and celebrity stories and the bizarre reality world in which we live.

Ah, to curl up to a book I could at least rationalize I'm reading and learning about other people's writing style, what they did to put this book together,something we all can learn from.

Any other great places to start reading a book that you've been thinking about for years, even one right off your bookshelf? Used to read at night in bed. Winters was great for reading. Too cold to do anything else!