July 15, 2010

"The writer ... is too busy dealing with people to have time to deliver messages to anyone."

"The messages happen just by chance. That he is interested in — in creating flesh and blood people to do the — the tragic or the comic things which people do for — for pleasure. That is, I think that one should read for pleasure, that one doesn't necessarily have to read for pleasure, but I myself read for pleasure, not for ideas. That if it's — I've got to hunt around in a book to — looking for an idea, then I'd rather do something else. I'd rather do something that's more fun than that. It won't be reading."

That's William Faulkner on an occasion labeled "Evening Meeting with Wives of Law Students," dated May 16, 1957. There is audio at the link. There are many more audio recordings, newly available at the Faulkner at Virginia archive. (Via NPR.)

Do you read for pleasure or find something that's more fun than reading?
Yes. I read only to the extent that it's pleasurable.
I read for pleasure, but I also read to work at digging out messages.
Reading is work, but I do it and then look for other things for pleasure.
Reading is work, but I like work. Pleasure-seeking isn't my way.
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bagoh20 said...

Learning is the most pleasurable and addictive thing I know, and I get a lot of it from reading non-fiction, so I don't have to decide.

edutcher said...

Always liked Faulkner; discovered him in high school, but to the subject.

I'll read for my own enjoyment, but also to learn something. I'm sure the Professor has so much required reading, she reads only what she likes when it's of her own volition.

Richard Dolan said...

Faulkner sounds so inane in that quote (haven't listened to the audio). By 1957, his best work was far behind him. And he often drank too much, particularly when he had to perform at public events and especially later in his career.

Perhaps a bit of that was going on when he spoke to the lovely law student wives at UVa.

howzerdo said...

I chose the second because it was closest, but it would have to be changed to "I read for pleasure, but I also read for work" for it to be accurate.

ricpic said...

Reading around on the internet, jumping around really, seems to make getting into bed with a good book and losing oneself in it more difficult -- at least for me.

Synova said...

Different people find pleasure in different things. Sometimes its far more "fun" to do something that is a challenge than something that is easy.

Peano said...

Why Read?

Big Mike said...

I'm with howzerdo. At home I read for pleasure and I read to learn new things (e.g., Freakonomics). At work I read so I can stay current with my field and deliver state of the art systems to our customers.

John Stodder said...

Faulkner might be drunk, and by '57 he might have been 15-20 years past his prime. But he was never inane. Ann's quote could have been something Faulkner said in 1932. That's what so many people don't get about him. He wrote to please himself. He obviously took a sensual pleasure in everything about words, and what words could do to evoke time, places, the inner thoughts of characters, the strange and mysterious things people do, and the way people interact. He loved making stuff up, and even though his stories are often brutally real and timely to the issues facing his native region, he is first and foremost true to his worship of the human imagination. I'm sure he read for the same things he would write for.

Gee, last night Bob Dylan, today Faulkner... Ann's on a tour of my heroes. What next, Louis Armstrong?

Graham Powell said...

Reading is not a competitive sport. Degree of difficulty doesn't count. If you read "difficult" books just to feel smug abou it, stop.

On the other hand, there are difficult books out there that are very rewarding. Still pleasure, but more the sort you get at the end of a hard workout.

Bill said...

"If you want to send a message, use Western Union." (various attributions)

"The great SF entertainer Robert A. Heinlein said that writers wrote for "beer money" -- by which he meant that the writer was competing for money that the reader would otherwise spend on other things, like beer ..." Rosemary Edghill

Robert Cook said...

I read for pleasure and while I once had rigid compulsion to finish any book I started, no matter how tedious--the only reason I finished never ending THE LORD OF THE RINGS when I read it in Jr. High School (I avoided the films)--now I will readily put a book aside if it is not a pleasure. However, as Synova said, people find pleasure in different things. I have zero interest in reading popular "beach books" and bestsellers--the Twilight Books or Robert Ludlum or other such material that is widely popular--but I am not particularly drawn to overtly difficult/"intellectual" books. I do not, for instance, like Faulkner, whose byzantine prose is as inviting to me as would be crawling through a thicket of brambles. I do like Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard, who is "difficult," I suppose, but his repetitious prose is musical and hypnotic if one applies oneself to it. I like Celine and Kafka, but they are both quite funny, actually. I have become recently an avid fan of J.G. Ballard, and I have long been a fan of Philip K. Dick. I'm reading Chris Hedges' EMPIRE OF ILLUSION right now, and just finished John Waters' latest collection of essays, ROLE MODELS. Next up will the new biography of painter Chuck Close.

I absolutely cannot read computer software manuals, or other technical material.

I do not read fiction looking for messages or thinking of the theme, but I let the experience of the book move me as it may, (as with McCarthy's THE ROAD, the ending of which brought tears to my eyes, a rare occurrence). In the same way, I like David Lynch's movies without trying to figure out what they're "about." The experience of the experience is what counts, and so it is for books.