Hay in the Spine

As Stensson wrote last week:

I have it on good authority that this ‘Active Reading’ of which you are so foolishly fond involves such practices as reading in the centre of a haystack, or in a bath of beans, neither of which are, in my opinion, even vaguely safe environments for a poor, defenceless book..

Poor, defenceless book? Come now, Carl Stensson, since when have you battered your heart in a sugary pillow of pathetic sentiment? Books were not made to sit on our windowsills like vases, on our lawns like gnomes, or on our desks like unopened gas bills. It’s how long the words live on in your mind, not how long the book lives on on your shelf. Getting a bit of hay (or quite a lot of hay, as it happens) stuck in the spine won’t hurt one’s chances of understanding any sort of sentence that I know. There may be limits (reading a book under an Indian rainstorm is, I’m told, somewhat counter-productive) but these are blessedly few.

And so I say to you: open wide your glass cabinets, bring forth your first editions and go, go, go, out into the countryside and read, read, read until your little heads explode with words. Up a tree, in a brook, stuck in the mud, on a horse, on a stile, under a bridge, in the middle of a road – I care not where! I care not where….

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