Sunday, December 12, 2010

gary shteyngart on Reading

A little follow-up on the conversation we've been having on the power of reading (via The Rumpus). My employers in NYC were very cool people: they had a double subscription to the New Yorker & gave me the extra copy each week. It was great to have it to read on the subway because sometimes you want to take your mind out of gear and read a magazine, a movie review, and so forth. (Especially if it had taken you a month, ie 5 days a week, 2 subway rides a day-- to get through only the first volume of the B&N Sherlock Holmes collection. Or you're trying to read the NYRB explain the economy.) There were some great articles in those pages and short stories that ranged from horrendously smarmy and icky in a I hate this guy way (like one about a screenplay writer at a party in Hollywood. For real, like who likes to read about that stuff.) to really really good. This was around the time the controversial 20 under 40 came out (nobody likes precocious children) and Gary Shteyngart's story stood out. It was funny & touching, and turned out to be a lead-in into his book Super Sad True Love Story, which everyone and their grandma loves and I swear I will read someday.

I've noticed that the New Yorker has been cordoning off more and more of the fiction on their website, which is too bad. Anyway--
Reading requires an act of empathy, really. What you're doing when you're reading a book is saying, I'm going to turn off who I am for a little bit, and I'm going to enter the personality of another human being. Reading is a very generous act, but it's a very helpful act if you really want to understand what another person is like. [Gary Shteyngart]

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