Reading as Art?

I’ve sung from the time I was a kid. Most of us do, even if only in the shower or in the car when our favorite song comes on. In Buckeye town, we sing “Carmen Ohio” and “Hang on Sloopy” at games. Likewise, I’ve read since I was young. As I thought further about my post on “Reading Musically” it caused me to wonder if reading can be on one level something most of us do, even if it is only ads and road signs, and on another level, something we do artfully?

What are some marks of artful reading? Here are a few starting thoughts:

1. As I’ve remarked elsewhere, it is attentive reading–reading where we give our full attention to the page. When I am engaged in choral singing, I have no bandwidth for anything else than the work–and maybe not even enough sometimes!

2. Artful reading grows in our capacity to observe the writer’s art in all its varieties of use of language, argument and rhetoric, plot development, etc.

3. Good reading grows in awareness of the conversations and conventions that make up a work. Just as there are particular rhythms and thematic elements in various forms of music, the more we read, the more we recognize how writers interact with each other.

4. Reading as an art creates something out of what is read. If nothing else, it creates richer mental furniture in our lives. Perhaps it inspires or even changes our thinking and behavior. For me, the experience of singing Brahm’s Requiem was transformative, particularly Brahms’ passages about the resurrection. Likewise, books like Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country have been part of a journey for me in learning to love my own land and to pursue healing in our own troubled racial history.

5. Artful reading, like other forms of art shares its fruit, in book discussions, in reviews, in passing along a good book to a friend. When I have rehearsed a piece that I love, I want people to come hear us.

Just a few thoughts on this.  I wonder what you think. Are these just the crazy reflections of a bibliophile? Or is there something to this, perhaps even something in danger of becoming a lost art?



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