A friend and I had a laugh last night, watching some video interviews with an interesting old man, and ruing the presence of the video-maker/interviewer, whose interruptions, asides, interpretations and questions only distracted from the engaging presence of the old man.

Then I could only think of more examples: most vividly recalling going to a panel discussion featuring several authors I had read. I was so excited to hear more from them. Except the moderator was a motor-mouth whose enthusiasm carried on throughout the entire 90 minutes, such that we mostly heard him talk about how amazing the panel was and how excited he was to have such luminaries in his presence, and the luminaries barely got a word in edgewise.

Similarly, I recently watched a couple of video interviews with interesting, sensitive subjects (in the sense that they had complex, delicate and subtle things to say), where the enthusiastic interviewer ignored all the interesting parts, interrupted frequently, and kept asking crass, unsubtle questions that had obvious answers and didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to talk to someones who knew far more about the subject than he did.

This has only pushed me lately, in reading, to read primary sources! And to have a tendency to skip the introduction, author’s reflection, translator’s thoughts, and so on in a work. Those bits can go on for 150 pages before you get to the part you actually want to read, and they spend most of that time telling you how to engage with the poem or whatever it is. Sometimes the front matter (or equally copious concluding material) is interesting to read in itself, especially after having first read the original text for oneself.

[Some commentators, on the other hand, have a depth of wisdom in and of themselves that makes their ponderings on a primary text amazing to read. Like St. Augustine. But that’s rather rare.]

Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy (via Wikimedia Commons)

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