Monday, January 01, 2007

Many of us have a double standard when it comes to listening to music and reading. While no one thinks it odd for someone to listen to a favorite song hundreds of times in their lifetime, almost everyone considers it a bit peculiar that a person would read a favorite poem or novel that often. We understand the need to hear a song over and over, but we don’t give the same deference to a reader. Perhaps we feel there’s more substance in a song than in a piece of literature – more depth in a hit by The Eagles than in a chapter in Great Expectations. No one, for example, would be surprised to hear that a friend is listening to a 60’s song yet again, but wouldn’t we be slightly dumbfounded to find that the same person has read a sonnet of Shakespeare hundreds of times? If we asked the person why she keeps reading the same poem over and over, she might say, “Well, for the same reason that I listen to a song over and over.” If there’s endless magic in a song, why can’t we accept the fact that the same type of bottomless pleasure can exist in literature? I’ll likely spend the rest of my life re-reading things I’ve already read many times: Paradise Lost, Shakespeare’s plays, novels by Dickens and George Eliot, and poems by Keats and Wordsworth. Someone else may listen to the Beatles’ songs again and again, while I’ll be bopping along to the music of Milton. I fully understand the music lover’s passionate attachment to favorite songs, and I hope my friends will similarly understand my devotion to a handful of beloved authors.

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