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)

Reading in bed

Why is reading in bed a thing? I recall it being not only a thing, but a wonderful thing when I was a kid. I would read voraciously, even reading under the covers with a flashlight after lights out time. Lights out meant exactly “no more reading.”

At some point I stopped reading in bed. I think this was in part because books became larger and heavier. One can’t easily hold and read a large hardcover book in bed, at least not without a lap desk, cushions to support a semi-seated position, prism glasses and so on.

I’ve also rarely had a bedside table. I still don’t. Usually because the bedroom is too small to fit bedside tables next to the bed. Without a bedside table, there’s no handy reading light nor place to put your book when done reading.

And the fact is that even now that I have a kindle and a cell phone, both of which are designed to facilitate reading in bed, I really prefer to read books on paper, so I generally read in a chair in the day, not at night in bed. I especially love reading while holding a pencil and making little annotations as I read.

So there ya go. Life without reading in bed. It’s sort of like life without breakfast in bed: it looks rather intriguing and picturesque, but it’s not part of my life and doesn’t seem worth a big effort.

The glorious Virgin Mary was reading when interrupted by an angel…