A stretch of two weeks at the beach allows me to do something I’ve never able to manage during the working year: read more than one book at a time—maybe six or seven—and experience the literary and intellectual synergy that results. This year I found myself reading, more or less at the same time:
How often do clergy read? And what are they reading? In a project commissioned by Pulpit & Pew, clergy from eight denominations reported spending an average of four hours a week reading beyond the reading done for a sermon or teaching lesson. Episcopal clergy were highest at five hours per week; Nazarenes were lowest at two hours.
I am mostly a utilitarian reader. For 40 years I have been writing and preaching sermons weekly, and I have come to rely on the almost exact relationship between the quality and quantity of my reading and my ability to create a sermon that has some life and energy to it.
I grew up with books. My parents valued books and taught me to treat books with respect and affection. One of the unexpected pleasures of college was going to the bookstore to purchase the texts I needed and could afford, and carrying them back to my room—my own books. I still have some of them. And I still love the feel of a newly purchased book in my hands.
The human race can be divided in various ways. There are people who love baseball and those who don’t; people who love the beach and those who are bored by it; and people who read and those who don’t. Not that the nonreaders never read anything. It’s just that for them reading plays a functional role in life.
Poetry doesn’t have to be solemn. In a series of poems first published in 1990, U.S. poet Scott Cairns invented a comic character named Raimundo Luz, a Portuguese postmodernist “radical theologian” whose autobiographical verses Cairns pretended to be translating.
The alarm has been sounded over the future of reading. We are rapidly becoming a culture of the image, not the word, we are told. Those who have been saturated in the hyperkinetic visual stimulus of electronic media are losing patience with the page and the more linear habits of thought needed to follow communication structured by printed words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters.