Sunday, March 31, 2013

Power of Reading


UPNG Bookshop and Press is active in publishing PNG authors.
The Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler said in From Where You Dream (2005) that one must never under estimate the powers inside of oneself that would have one flinch and convince oneself that one is doing the right thing. His reference is to the powers of reading a good book.

“Now, of course you must read in order to be a writer, and read ravenously. But there are points in your writing day, and even in your life, when you run the danger of hiding in somebody else’s voice, somebody’s else’s vision and sensibility. A moment comes when it’s time to find your own artistic identity and find a way into your unconscious. And then you will need to manage your reading carefully,” are the wise words of Robert Olen Butler that had me thinking about what to write this week.

I have to write three or four articles for this column a month ahead. After that I follow the tradition of leaving the journalistic field to fallow for weeks before I come back to cultivate the creative, serious, and sometimes anecdotal experiences of people I encounter in life. These become the foundations of the kind of writing I do in this column every Friday. I sometimes do not understand where such inspirations come from, but what I do know is that writing is something I do for a living and that I take everything that I write with sincerity, honesty, and to me writing is a passion that I have a limitless supply of.

To write well I have to read more and widely.  I know that as a writer because I have read that many times. Without reading the kind of writing I do comes out as dry and unconvincing to the reader. Yet it is the reader in me that leads to me think about what to write.

The point to stress here is that whether the reading I am doing for leisure, pleasure, academic, spiritual, or for enlightenment I have to learn something new from it. I have to gain something out of what I am reading. I have to use the information, knowledge, ideas, and story to create my own stories, to write my own works, and to inspire others with the stories I read.

I have for a while now been inundated with several books to read for the purposes of reviewing them for this column as well as to write academic reviews on them. Books on history, politics, anthropology, literature reprinted by the UPNG Press for the UPNG Bookshop are on my desk waiting for me to plough through them. Books on jurisprudence, land tenure, and commercial law are filling my shelves; they too have to be read.

Recently I purchased Jared Diamond’s latest book. The new book written by this Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author of Collapse and Guns, Germs, and Steel, has already attracted controversy in the academic world. The World Until Yesterday, is Diamond’s latest book, which I have been asked to comment on, especially its representation of Papua New Guinean societies and people.  I had avoided knowing too much about the controversy surrounding the book until I have read it myself.

I could already sense, from reading the first 10 pages, the controversy sucking me into the book. I have no sense of what my response is, but I do know one thing that I can say now. Whatever Jared Diamond writes will always attract controversy. I remember purchasing the book Guns, Germs, and Steel at Sydney airport when it first came out. I read the book on the long flight from Sydney to Los Angeles and then to Minneapolis. By the time I arrived in Minnesota I had finished reading the book. Instead of flaunting the book I ended up citing it in my PhD dissertation as an inspiring book. I wonder what I will think after I have read through Diamond’s The World Until Yesterday.

The challenge now is to organize the way I read all the books I am supposed to read now. The issue now is about having the time to read all these books. Do I have the time to sit down and read all the books waiting for me to read them? I admit I don’t have the luxury of time to read all of them, but at least I will read the ones that I need to read because I have no choice not to do so.

Reading books is to me the life-blood of knowledge in the modern sense of it. Without reading one is left behind to catch up with those having the advantage of acquired knowledge on the back of reading habit developed over time. It surprises me little to witness demonstration of such refined habit at work in our midst sometimes.

People who read come out more enlightened and informed about what to say, write, and do in life to make everything look so simple, easy, and plain.  Without reading one can remain in permanent ignorance and exhibit resistance to and develop a psychology of rejection of new ideas that can change one’s life or society. It is important to make reading a developmental tool in one’s life and that society itself can depend on to take it to the next level of its progress.

It seems to me some people are writing their works without reading what others have written. People who are writing about their life stories should read the autobiographies of others, what makes good autobiographies, and whether their life stories are the valuable lessons readers will gain from investing their time in reading such books.

The importance of reading is something I can never understate. It is important to me as much as it is to many other people. Those who read are those who succeed in writing and in life. Those who have developed the habit of reading are those who will deal with the mysteries of life with more certainty.

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