Esther’s Space- journey through my life

January 15, 2008

Esther the reader

Filed under: ENG 597: Literature in the Information Age — estherspace @ 10:22 pm

Task posed: “characterize yourself as a reader of literature and as a reader in the information age.”My question: why couldn’t we start the semester with something less abstract, like “if you were a flower, what kind of flower would you be?” (I’d be a nasturtium, but only because it has a weird non-floweresque name)

I’m not too clear on exactly what the original, Kim-given, question is asking. I’ll revert to the good old who what when why where how that we ask ourselves.

as a reader of literature

(literature being defined here as predominantly canonical texts in English, though extends to include texts that have not yet been canonized by provide lengthy narratives and are generally deemed to be something more than chicken scratch)

Who: I read a lot of dead people, because they’re canonical. Because of the (necessary) emphasis on the staples that provide the groundwork for the writing we have today, it has taken me a bit of time to comprehend that books don’t have to be old to be ‘good’ in the academic sense.

What: I generally read books- paper bound by glue and placed between a front and back cover. There are so many books that I wish I had the time to read, it is difficult allow myself to go looking for new mediums. While literary magazines are not new, I don’t really read them either- they are either online, which I find hard to stay committed to, or they require subscriptions (that I’m not really willing to pay) or knowing someone who has a subscription (which I generally don’t, or don’t bother to find out). These literary magazines aren’t shelved conveniently at my local library, so I don’t generally associate with them.

When: All the time. Full-time student and full-time job, not too much ‘extra’ time on my hands, so when I get some I’m generally doing homework, which tends to be reading. But before I become a psychotic spelling-challenged humanities major, I was a voracious reader.

Why:  This might be the toughest to answer.  I read primarily for entertainment; there is a huge element of escapism in the act of reading.  I also enjoy being challenged, but trying to build something in woodshop is also mentally challenging for me, so I’m not sure why I find reading to be ‘work’ in a less negative context.

Where:  I read at home, at work, in the car.  I do not read in the tub, on dates (on formal dates at least),  or in boxes with foxes.  I read newspaper articles online, and a few blogs, but not much else.

How:  When I’m reading for my own entertainment, it is very different from the way that I read for class.   I read for the relationships between the characters,  between the characters and their society, between characters and my preconceived notions, my ideas of society, and my relationship with my society after having read the book.

The short:  I’m an average reader-who-majors-in-English-literature.  Which means, I read more than your average American, but I’m probably not going to change the world with it.

as a reader in the information age

When it comes to things that are new, hip, and happening, I’m behind the curve.  Sure I use the internet.  But I don’t read books online.  The internet has largely replaced the conventional newspaper for me, but I can’t claim that I read an entire newspaper’s worth of articles every day.  This opportunity to pick and choose, as brought up by the New Yorker article, allows me to spend more more time reading about things I agree with rather than explore new ideas.

Real-life example:  there were a lot of books in my house when I was growing up, and a huge range of topics.  If we were bored, we were told to get a book and read it (the encyclopedia was recommended more than once).  We could not go online to check up on the updates for the latest in our favorite series, instead, we picked books with the least boring-looking covers and gave them a shot.  It’s amazing how much is out there that you don’t even know that  you’ll love.

I would say that I’m pretty old-school.  In my attempts to think about what I’ve read recently, I’d have to say that most of it came as the printed word in a expected format- a book, the directions on the back of a box, billboards.

I guess I should admit that I don’t have a t.v.  More specifically, we have a tv in the closet, but since our new(ish) apartment doesn’t have a living room, we’ve never taken it out.  I think that this has an impact on my approach to literature, since losing myself in the television is less of an option.  But, admittedly, the internet can be a quick way to while the time away…



  1. Not having a television is best, I’ve learned. Keep doing that.

    Comment by parslow — January 18, 2008 @ 9:50 pm

  2. Esther,

    The act of reading may not change the world, but one person can. I suppose it’s safe to say that a person choosing/not choosing to reading does change the world, by proxy. Hopefully more readers will choose to make a change.

    I like the approach you took to answer this question. One of the fundamentals is knowing those 5 W’s and good ol’ “How.” I think that we often forget the basic tools that make us the sorts of readers we are today, so way to bring it back!

    On a less academic note, I always make sure that my purse is large enough to accommodate a paperback book. On one very interesting date we ended up reading David Sedaris essays aloud in a coffee shop. I’m not quite sure what that says about me as a date, but I sure am a dedicated reader 🙂

    Comment by Katie — January 21, 2008 @ 8:04 pm

  3. “I always make sure that my purse is large enough to accommodate a paperback book.” Right on, Katie! It’s absolutely awful when you find yourself stuck waiting for something and the only thing available to read is the dumb musing on the side of a Starbucks cup. 😉

    Comment by estherspace — January 22, 2008 @ 11:48 pm

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