Why Read?

I’ve just finished writing a piece for the journal of The Society of Existential Analysis. Formally it was a review of two books about what books or literature can tell us about the stages of life. In practice it made me think about the wider questions:

Some classic books

Some classic books

Why Read? Why do we read?

Jean-Paul Sartre entitled his autobiography Pourquoi Ecrire? (Why Write?). And we may ask Pourquoi Lire? (Why read?) We may ask why, in the age of the internet, should we read books at all?  and I do mean books – though these days you can read them on an electronic device.

Or even more precisely, we may ask, as Italo Calvino (a novelist as existential as Camus) once did: ‘Pourquoi lire les classiques?’ Why (should we) read the classics?

Journal Prompt: Why do you read?

Edward Mendelson‘s book The things that matter – What Seven Classic Novels Have to Say about the Stages of Life offers one argument for why we should read.

The stages of life, in this context are:

Growth

Growth

Birth

Childhood

Growth

Marriage

Love

Parenthood

The Future

You might want to delete some and add others to make your own list – would bereavement count as a stage of life? As surely as love perhaps. Separation can take many forms too.

But of course the question is:

Journal prompt: Which seven novels would you choose to tell you about the stages of Life?

Or perhaps the stages of your life?

Or even which are the books which have taught you most about your own life stages to date?

Please share something about your list here.

Don’t forget to sign up to follow this blog at:

http://katethompsontherapy.com/category/writing_therapy_blog/ in its new home.

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1 Comment

  1. Red Sea

    I read because where I was born He brew
    the bulrushes infusing papyrus
    and though it hurt my tongue at first I knew
    communication has some hope for us.

    The Pharoah’s daughter found my ark of reeds
    in the river Nile while Miriam watched
    Jochebed was my nurse and when she feeds
    my mind it is never in Egyptian.

    At that time there were not ten commandments.
    There were no expectations set in stone
    and yet I, dressed in their princely garments
    must represent my people all alone.

    I was not ignorant – did not not know
    the laws of the pyramids and the sphinx
    but assault of a kinsman is a blow
    that puts one’s core principles in a jinx.

    Well-read enough to know better saw red
    and killed a life that was not meant to die.
    I felt the wounds of shame and filled with dread
    towards distant horizons had to fly.

    A shepherd in the land of Midian
    Moses defended seven shepherdesses
    married Ziporah and they had a son;
    Moses went walking in the wilderness.

    Lo! A burning bush not consumed by fire
    Reveals now the holy land and the name
    I am that I am. The flames are my choir.
    My nomenclature is not why I came.

    Aaron my brother arrived from our land
    determined our people should celebrate
    in the manner that I am that I am
    decreed but first ten trials were sent by fate.

    Or rather summoned by the brothers, both
    eager to assuage their God and people.
    They went to Pharoah pledging their troth
    and claiming the right of free worship still.

    Disallowed, forever proud yet heart-worn
    Moses and Aaron siege Egyptian soil.
    A serpent rod, rivers of blood then swarms
    of frogs, gnats, flies and cow disease, then boils

    then storm, locusts and darkness. First born boys
    of Egypt were taken, and the Passover
    led, to honor Judaism with joys,
    when he who is circumcised gains clearance.

    We had to flee the wrath of the Pharoah.
    The Lord held open the Red Sea for us.
    Some say Yam Suph the Reed Sea in truth
    It certainly dwarfed any Colossus

    A millennium before Greek Helios
    two more millennia before New York
    true Liberty for the Hebrews to cross
    on land the ocean while Egyptians baulk.

    Homeward bound to the bush of Mount Sinai
    the shepherd cradles covenant of rock
    Enraged by Golden Calf idolatry
    the farmer loses patience with his flock.

    Yet this lawgiver had by now learnt laws
    bequeathed to him by I am that I am
    Killing a man is now beyond his flaws
    His anger will not exodus the pram.

    05.04.2013 © Katrina

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