His Desire to Participate in the Ongoing Conversation
Gabriel Zaid: “A person comes late to a conversation and believes that he can't follow it, that he needs to be better informed: as if knowledge were something other than conversation itself, as if it were something to be acquired elsewhere first. Friends recommend that he take certain classes, which bore him; that he read the classics, wchich also bore him. The truly enlightened thing would be to recommend that he have more confidence in his appetite for conversation; to tell im that if he is interested in something he doesn't understand, he should pay more attention, ask questions, reflect, consult dictionaries, manuals, classics, but all in the service of his desire to participate in the ongoing conversation. [...] The desire to follow a conversation that you don't understand is a healthy sign, not an indication of lack of preparation. Discipline is good in the service of desire, not in place of desire. Without desire, there is no living culture.”
For avid readers of books, I strongly recommend So Many Books, Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance, a short book which is really a love-letter to other books and the book-publishing industry. Zaid says that the book has many advantages over TV, music and even the Internet and "e-books": books can be skimmed, read at one's own pace, are cheap, permit greater variety, require no reading device other than the person holding the book, and are portable. Zaid also writes about the economics of book publishing, and, probably my favourite section of the book, describes unread books in one's personal library as "unfinished projects".
Reading books is the only thing I thoroughly enjoy doing, and Zaid's defense of not merely reading but reading books has only fed the obsession I have with them.