Upturn the Nesting Swan!

A nesting swan reminds me/ of a woman reading quietly

Thus spake Alma Koks in her 1967 poem ‘Swoman’. I know many people who would not approve of these lines, for a variety of reasons. The one that most readily comes to mind, however, is Johannes Speyer, whose polemical essay from the same year (‘Upturn the Nesting Swan!’, collected two years later in Seven Essays) vehemently rejects the idea that readers, male or female, should conflate reading with nesting. ‘A book is not an egg that we nurse under warm wings’, Speyer writes. ‘No, a book is a living thing. It needs air. It needs to be taken out for walks. It needs to be treated like the active object it is’.

And so Active Reading was born…

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