Aug 212011

Reading yesterday a blog post / interview about and with William Giraldi, my attention was caught by his statement about reading : “I don’t enjoy writing,” Giraldi said. “I enjoy reading.”, and he shared with his audience his concern about so many wanna-be writers who do not consider that reading as part of the writer’s life, who have not and do not read… Before MFAs and other workshops, the only training a writer would refer to was the reading school: read as much as one can possibly do, and find in those reading the very substance essential to the art of writing. And unfortunately, I have to agree with Giraldi, being like him struck by the number of writers or apprentices who do not read and do not see this as a paradox.

Earlier in the summer I read The Summing up, where Somerset Maugham attempted to «give a coherent picture of [his] feelings and opinions» as a writer, as a thinker. Not a memoir in the conventional sense of the term, The Summing up is an exploration of the life of the mind, of the material that – literally – built the writer in him. And, as one can expect, reading is at the heart of his experience. Here are few of his thoughts on the matter, some of the ones I keep now on my desk…

“To me reading is a rest as to other people conversation or a game of cards. It is more than that; it is a necessity, and if I am deprived of it for a little while I find myself as irritable as the addict deprived of his drug. I would sooner read a time-table or a catalogue than nothing at all.”

“The writer can only be fertile if he renews himself and he can only renew himself if his soul is constantly enriched by fresh experience. There is no more fruitful source of this than the enchanting exploration of the great literatures of the past.”

“No reading is worth while unless you enjoy it”

And this one for the writers among us:

“Some of us are so made that there is nothing else we can do. We do not write because we want to; we write because we must.”