The Reader by Honoré Daumier
In one of my earliest blog posts, called “Time Enough at Last,” now occupying the number 5 spot of my most visited entries, probably owing more to its searchable references to a certain Twilight Zone episode than any other appeal, I wrote about the newly rediscovered pleasure of reading, occasioned by my no longer having a 9 to 5 desk job occupying all my mental and physical time and energy.
The Novel Reader by Vincent Van Gogh
Sadly, it didn’t take long for my new job of self-employed artist, which it turns out demands at least ten times the time and energy of a traditional 40 hour workweek, even if you’re blessedly allowed to do a lot of it without taking a shower or getting dressed or having to deal with life forms other than your cat, to put my life as a reader back into the dim corners of stolen moments after its brief holiday in the dappled sunlight of early retirement.
The Pensive Reader by Mary Cassatt
Reading. I miss it. I sit at my computer lately enjoying blogs by other people who collect, consume, even create books, and it has the feel of peering into the window of a warm cosy establishment I am always meaning to visit but seem to come upon only when I am hurrying elsewhere. There is never enough free time. There will probably be even less of it on hand before there is more of it. Clearly I need to go beyond the available supply, and when I can’t find the time, make it.
Young Girl Reading by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
As a motivating force, I gathered the images for this post from some of my favorite paintings of readers. Readers seem to be a popular topic among artists. Even when the pose has been staged for the purposes of the work, there is something about the act of reading that is both introspective and expansive, fully focused and utterly free. We are drawn into a good read away from the world outside, deeper into ourselves and the lives we lead inside our imagination, but in that detachment we often find ourselves ironically less isolated and more connected to both who we are and how we relate to the world. We emerge from the experience relaxed and revitalized. Outside our windows the sun has risen or set, but meantime in the pages of the book we have not looked away from or let go of for hours, whole histories have come and gone. It’s not about escape, but discovery.
A Listening Thing by William Michaelian
Today a book arrived in the mail. Many books on my shelves languish unread. They have been around for too long and know me too well to hope for that sad state of affairs to change any time soon. Quite possibly they aren’t good reads at all or perhaps I would have found or made my way to them by now. But to this new book I owe the kind of good behavior and attitude one would give to a new acquaintance of unexpected quality, in those first few animated conversations that let you know that the friendship to come is a different thing altogether, deserving, rewarding, enduring, possibly even lifechanging, and definitely not to be set aside for another time, a better time, when there is more time. I scanned the descriptive text on the back cover. Mr. Michaelian, you had me at “romantic misfit and underground man.” The time is now.
The Reader by Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Tomorrow I am going to shut the lid of my laptop and in the privacy of my living room with no other obligations or persons permitted to interrupt or intervene, no apologies, and a comfortable pillow at my back, read “A Listening Thing.” It doesn’t matter when and how I finish, as long as I begin it. Too often in prioritizing what we come to believe are the essentials in our lives, we deny ourselves the very things that sustain and protect us, every bit as much as food, clothing, shelter. A good read is not a luxury or a leisure activity but a necessity. For the timely reminder of this neglected truth, I have this book and its author to thank.