Sunday, June 6, 2010

Arguing with myself

Having extolled the virtues of reading experiences that include no one but the reader, the author, and the characters, I can't let the subject pass without giving some time to the opposite kind of reading, the kind you share with real, live people. What this kind of reading loses in autonomy, it makes up in bonding opportunities. When I visited Louisa May Alcott's house in Concord a few years ago, a preteen and her mother who had just read Little Women together delighted in pointing out details from the novel to each other. You might even bond a bit with (ew) a teacher who assigns you just the right book, particularly if he or she takes you on just the right field trip afterwards.

A community of readers doesn't always have to include an authority figure, of course. Book clubs know this, and so did my friends and I in elementary school when passed around the series books our parents barely tolerated and played that we were Kristy, Claudia, and Mary Anne. Finding a movie or TV show in common saves many an awkward dinner; the same goes for shared books, and maybe more so, since there's more of an element of surprise. It's not hard to find someone else who saw Betty White on SNL, but buddies willing to discuss the finer points of Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse are a little harder to come by, at least outside of Simmons College. And when a good, pen-shaking literary argument arises, even better!

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