The Profound Pleasure of Reading

One hundred and twenty-three readers visited Time’s Flow Stemmed so far today, inconsequential compared to some popular book blogs, but a normal day’s statistics for this blog. It never fails to both surprise and delight me that people should take some pleasure from my thoughts about the books I read. Comments in these days of social media are rarer but occasionally one is left that inspires a moment of fearlessness.

Today, in response to this post, John Lancaster wrote, “This is the first time I’ve posted a comment on any blog. I really want to thank you for also giving me lots of writers to discover. Even more important, I find your defence of reading as a worthwhile activity in itself very sustaining.” Comments like this get to the very core of why I blog.

Until very recently my greatest fear was of public speaking, not remotely uncommon, but one that lead me to decline, avoid, or wriggle out of many speaking opportunities, some, on literature, that I might have enjoyed. Last year I resolved to tame the public speaking demon with an intensive six-month program.

The video below is of a sort of graduation event to mark the conclusion of the program, a performance in front of over a hundred viewers. I had no intention to post it here. I may regret posting it, but John’s comment has inspired a moment’s recklessness given that it is a defence, of sorts, of reading and sits with the theme of my last two posts. If watching the video is simply too painful, this post about the summer I really started reading covers the same ground.

Thank you, John Lancaster.

24 thoughts on “The Profound Pleasure of Reading

  1. I enjoyed the talk a lot. Especially finding out about the origins of your reading. I couldn’t help but think of Denton Welch and his life story (I usually pride myself on not being a ‘fan’ of any writer but, damn, Welch has been a hell of a discovery) and especially Maiden Voyage. How our imagination changes its ideas of ‘Who is this person, I wonder?’ And the more you find out, thankfully, the mystery remains in subtler ways. Thanks.

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    • Thanks, Des. I am very grateful that you introduced me to Denton’s work. The parallels with his and my life amuse me tremendously. I’m unashamedly a ‘fan’ though I’d never use the word in public; I prefer the term ‘my old chestnuts’. Good enough for Sam Beckett ….

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  2. Anthony, this is wonderful. I watched the video mostly out of vulgar curiosity (wanting to know what you sound like after reading you for so long) and it was fantastic. I only do a bit of teaching at the moment but if I could I would play students this video as an introduction to all sorts of topics (or invite you to come and give a version of this talk to them…). Thank you for posting.

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    • Thank you so much, Jess, I appreciate you watching and commenting. Funny thing is, my phobia of public speaking has all but disappeared and that little performer that exists in all of us until life beats him or her down has popped up out of seemingly nowhere. I spoke to 50 college students a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed every minute. I’m also participating in a storytelling club.

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  3. Well, that solves a puzzle. I saw the video on Youtube while trying to find some biographical detail about the extremely reticent Anthony. I found it hard to reconcile my image of a shy retiring bookish chap with the suave, accomplished public speaker; i really did think you were teaching the audience how to do effective public speaking. I’m glad my comment encouraged you to share it more widely; it is very inspiring.

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  4. I’m cheering over here in Switzerland. What a beautiful talk. I am so glad you posted it. And I am so impressed at your speaking. How brave of you to confront the public speaking demon. Extremely well done. And just fun to see you as well.

    And of course, this: “You are never quite the same person when you emerge from the pages of a particularly fine book.” Yes. Exactly.

    Another round of cheering.

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  5. Anthony, the video is great. Thanks so much for posting it. I particularly love what you say about being changed by a fine book.

    You come across as a confident speaker, so it’s pretty amazing to hear that this was a big step for you.

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  6. Anthony,

    Just to repeat what others have said: thanks for sharing, and an excellent talk. Very funny as well as carefully structured. The pacing at the beginning – your cadences and pauses – is marvellous.

    Huw

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