The Anachronism of Reading


I learned a new word today: “Anachronism”. It means old-fashioned. I learned it from a book I just finished reading that moved me in mysterious ways, not least because I could identify with many–if not all–of the characters. But there was one specific character that I could identify with the most. She was described as “Anachronistic” within the narrative becuase she was always carrying a book with her and reading in her free time.

And that made me think… has reading really fallen out of style? The art of thinking certainly isn’t much in vogue anymore. In the time when humanity did not have the comfortable option of recurring to endless forms of immediate entertainment (twitter, facebook, instagram, netflix, the internet in its entirety…) people used to talk to each other more. They used to share their thoughts with each other (face to face and not through a mechanical apparatus), and refine their points of view through actual speech.

Conversation was both eloquent and elegant, because people used their minds as they spoke. I believe that becasue of this, the minds of people in the past had much more space and were far less busy than the minds of people today. That was the beauty of it.

pride and prejudice

In those times, reading was also in vogue. And since people could think more freely, without the burden of the constant buzzing and noise of the modern world, people could also write more clearly and more elaborately than they can today. At least that is my theory. I am nostalgic by nature, however, and do look at the past as a sort of golden epoch, better than the times of today, which is a sort of illusion in itself.

But looking at it objectively, the majority of the books from the past were far more complicated than the books written today. The language was richer, the thinking more elaborate. Today people seek to be shocked and immersed rather than challenged by the words they read. So many things are competing for our attention, after all. Books have to compete with film (a worthy art form) and television shows, and compared to the immediacy and the visual immersion that these mediums offer, books grown more and more old-fashioned.

I do not see people walking the streets with books under their arms, as they did in the past. I sometimes sit down to read alone at the park, or at a restaurant (having no qualms about eating alone) and people stare at me. Granted, I live in Panama, a country not necessarily known for its wide readership. But I cannot help but think that books, overall, have fallen out of style. They are no longer a part of our wardrobe, like our purses or our briefcases are, even though they make for interesting accesories. There are of course exceptions, like those people who read on the metro (bless their hearts).

I, for one, cannot imagine my life without the pleasure of a good book under my arm. Anachronistic or not, I will continue walking the city with a book under my arm (or tucked away safely in my purse), waiting for the day when it will come into style again.

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