small meaningful things

George Saunders on why we should study the way we read

I frequently acquire books through reading people’s blog posts. I picked up George Saunder’s A Swim in a Pond in the Rain from someone’s blog (sorry I forgot whose, but I’ll make more effort to note it down the next time), and I started reading it today. I want to share a quote that left quite a linger impression:

To study the way we read is to study the way the mind works: the way it evaluates a statement for truth, the way it behaves in relation to another mind (i.e., the writer’s) across space and time. What we’re going to be doing here, essentially, is watching ourselves read (trying to reconstruct how we felt as we were, just now, reading). Why would we want to do this? Well, the part of the mind that reads a story is also the part that reads the world; it can deceive us, but it can also be trained to accuracy; it can fall into disuse and make us more susceptible to lazy, violent, materialistic forces, but it can also be urged back to life, transforming us into more active, curious, alert readers of reality.

Source: A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders | link

I like that he insinuates that reading like plenty of other things is essentially a skill, an act of interpretation as well as a response to the world. One could read something as it is, or one could think about it critically or even just start wondering about it.

I guess this is something that speaks to me at this point in time when there is so much disinformation, and perhaps the reason why the world is in this state is because we’ve been taught to read as though it is a technical skill – if only it was taught more philosophically.