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Why Are You Reading It?

I’m currently reading the first book of Dreamsong by George R.R. Martin. It’s a sample, sort of, of his early works. Today I’ve read his beautiful story A Song for Lya, and remembered the first time I’ve read it, years ago.

I was a University student then, and broke. Whenever I had some time, I went to the National Library. You couldn’t take any books out of it, you had to read them there. So there I went, day after day, and read the books I couldn’t find in other libraries and didn’t have the money to purchase. A Song for Lya was published in a SF almanac called Monolit, in its first issue. All the Monolits were hundreds and hundreds of pages long, they had one novel and a dozen or more stories and sometimes some essays. The novel in this one was the Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre, and it had me daydreaming for days.

Not like A Song for Lya, though, for that one was a haunting story about loneliness and love and the price one might be willing to pay for love eternal, for never feeling lonely again – the price including a sort of a suicide, by being eaten by an alien parasite. It was haunting. It was beautiful, and sad, and although I didn’t quite agree with Lya’s choice, I could understand it. I could understand the pull of being one with everyone and loving them all and being loved by them all – I prefer my privacy and being just me, but I could understand how attractive such a complete union might be.

It was nice, going to the library and spending most of the day there, reading. Sometimes I’d see my screenplay writing professor there, and we’d nod to each other, and smile. There was no need to say anything. We were writers and writers go to libraries to do their research and to read books they couldn’t otherwise find; there was no explanation needed.

There were interesting encounters, too. One time, there was a guy sitting in front of me. Maybe he noticed me because I was sitting right behind him; maybe because we were the only ones wearing black. Whatever the reason, he asked me what I was reading. I showed him the cover; at the time, it was The Republic by Plato.

He asked me why I was reading it.

I stared at him in disbelief.

Why was I reading Plato? Err, because it’s a normal thing for an educated person to read Plato, sooner or later? Because my dramaturgy professor mentioned another book by Plato and I’ve read that one and was curious to read what was, maybe, his most famous work? So much of philosophy has something to do with Plato, how does one follow it without reading Plato?

What kind of question was that, why was I reading Plato? In my mind, that was simply a thing to do.

I told him I was reading it because I wanted to. He seemed puzzled. I got back to the book.

And now I wonder. Why are we reading it – whatever “it” may be, whether it’s a philosophy book or a fluff novel or something dark and serious or…

My answer stays pretty much the same, no matter what book I’m reading. I’m reading it because I want to. I’m reading because at least something about the book made me curious. I’m reading it because that’s what I do, I read a lot of books and enjoy doing it, they make me dream and give me whole new worlds and inspire me to read and write some more.

Why are you reading it?

On a side note: my mother found another dirt cheap old book, published in 1950. Two stories by Charles Dickens. I’ll be reading that one soon. Just because.

Why Reading a Book?


A writer, a reader, a dreamer. Dreaming myself into existence.

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