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Reading 'as and when you like'

21 July 2003

'When you read a book, you are not confined to a single time or place, as you are when trapped at a concert, or, heaven forbid, a play. The encounter of writer and reader through the printed page is a far more elegant and less oppressive transaction than that. The writer has a chance to compose herself at leisure, to become far more intelligent and appealing than she could ever be in real time. The reader, for his part, can approach the book as he likes, picking it up, putting it down, pausing, re-reading, skipping, at will.

You can read a book as and when you like. Both parties thus enjoy some freedom from the usual constraints of life. It's one of the things that makes reading and (so it is said) writing so delectable, this freedom, even if it is illusory. It is also worth reminding ourselves that any book which truly lives, lives beyond its author and reaches readers not yet present, entirely unforeseen.'

David Sexton in the London Evening Standard