Thursday, February 8, 2007

Maugham's the Word

I've just started reading "Of Human Bondage"; I'm only a few pages into it. Maugham is describing Philip and how he becomes a reader - "Insensibly he formed the most delightful habit in the world, the habit of reading: he did not know that thus he was providing himself with a refuge from all the distress of life; he did not know either that he was creating for himself an unreal world which would make the real world of every day a source of bitter disappointment."

I agree with him that reading is the most delightful habit in the world. It has lots of benefits and very few drawbacks. It creates a wide and varied vocabulary. It introduces one to different worlds and view points. And, as Maugham says, it allows an escape from the distress of life. However, I don't know how much it makes the real world a source of bitter disappointment. I have been an avid reader since I was young. I keep books around like they are friends. I often find myself staring at my bookshelves reviewing the titles, or picking up a volume just to flip through a few pages - it's like visiting with old friends. But I don't think that I've ever really felt that life should imitate art. Of course, I'm not reading romance novels. And my life has already been jaded by television, so I'm not expecting books to tell me the truth. I think most of us learned at a young age that everything lies - even books. Maybe that's why Philip is destined to be let down by the real world outside of his books. Not having TV, he hasn't yet learned at the tender age of 9 to be sceptical.

But lets think about this, if Maugham is saying that reading can be a bitter source of disappointment, should we not read? And if we shouldn't read, then what am I doing reading Maugham?

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