How much of reading occurs between us and the form we read, and how much of reading occurs between us and the form in which we read?
The form itself – to each his own prose, poetry, history, among others – is unmistakably the book. The form in which we encounter reading is as much the physical circumstance in which reading is pursued, but also the condition of our selves as we embark on this pursuit. This armchair we sit in, our state of mind, and the people we find ourselves among, are all parts of the form in which we experience reading. Reading is a curious affair that concerns us, the form we read, and the form in which we read.
Yet, it is ironic that this latter form is frequently neglected, even as we are ourselves in possession of a most delightful one –
In this place we call the Reading Room.
Some adore it, some relish the moments of fulfilling engagement within it, and some remain uncertain and unconvinced of it. For its lovers, they are often distracted from committing to it by the rush of reality. For its disbelievers, they are but unfamiliar with its existence. One only needs to begin to approach it to realise the opportunities within.
It is a place of comfort that invites us to partake in a moment of indulgence. The atmosphere is one that lulls the conscious mind and lures the subconscious. As we are absorbed in the book in our hands, we allow our selves to slip from our bodies and into the alternate realm created by our subconscious. We lose ourselves.
When we awake from this, however, we know we are safe. The Reading Room is, at the same time, a place of familiarity, being mere footsteps away and freely accessible to us. When we depart from our book, and the creation of our subconscious vaporizes, our selves creep back into our bodies. We are not the same whole, because reading has famished our bodies and transfigured our thoughts, but we are not lost. The Reading Room is this safe harbour.
While we could read anywhere we desire to, nothing triumphs an engagement with reading in pleasure and in ease. Reading, or the giving of time to reading, is often discredited as a distraction from deadlines and responsibilities we bear. Though, what if the needs of productivity themselves are in fact distractions from reading? This probably explains the unspoken ban on other materials, like laptops, in the Reading Room. Instead of perceiving these as constraining or deterring our involvement in the Reading Room, why not embrace them as precisely that which frees us from stress and hurriedness? It then becomes a place that allows us to escape. Walking into the Reading Room and falling deep into the pages of a book, then becomes less a diversion of time and effort from perceived productive activities, and more of a purposeful investment.
Reading, though, may not always have to be an individual affair. The Reading Room is as much a shared place as it is place for sharing. One could enter the Reading Room as an individual seeking me-time, but one could also enter as a participant. For the like-minded, it encourages conversation, for participants – students and fellows – to share and discuss.
Whether as a lone voyager or as part of a company, a seasoned participant or an inexperienced visitor, one never leaves the Reading Room feeling less than when one entered. It gives as much as one invests and it is patient as it waits. It promises an experience of reading.
So, be acquainted.
Be stirred, and be seized by this place we call the Reading Room.
Photo credits: Jesslene Lee
Author: Jesslene Lee
Editor: Alison Chew