When reading is unpleasurable

Is it disrespectful of the art of writing to feel that much of reading is inherently unpleasurable? Under certain circumstances (when in a hurry, when forced to do so, when someone is looking over your shoulder, when the material is poorly written, when your eyes are tired) reading can be a chore. For many (especially those with print disabilities) reading is a difficult and frustrating activity. For those who were never encouraged to do so, it is a waste of time. And for all of us, much of the reading we do (scanning junk mail and the endless listserv postings that come into our email Inbox, reading the fine print, reading office memos) is a source of irritation. So is it a stretch to think that this irritation might have an effect on our broader perception of reading?

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One response to “When reading is unpleasurable

  1. Yes, there are those physiological problems that can make reading frustrating, although they may not diminish one’s desire to read. But, the other type of “junk” reading that constitutes so much of our time is a different kind of barrier. Here we are trying to filter out the signal from the noise of the channel. We have to struggle through our e-mail because of the fear that we are going to miss something important if we don’t.
    Is this a new problem? Do we read more? Is there more that we have to read? Does the percentage of time we have to spend “scanning,” as you say, consume more of our available time? Then it must be that this has become more an integral part of our idea of reading.
    But, what about high school students reading text books or novels for class? Are they not too in this mode of doing a kind of reading that is different from reading for escape or for pleasure? Was it ever different?

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