Reading: Elizabeth Hardwick, Elinor Catton, and a warning for wives



The greatest gift is the passion for reading…

It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.

Elizabeth Hardwick in George Plimpton The Writers’ Chapbook (Viking 1989) p. 11

And Elinor Catton has gone so far as to devote part of her Booker winnings to the setting-up of a grant that would give writers time to read.

“My idea is that if a writer is awarded a grant, they will be given the money with no strings attached except that after three months they will be expected to write a short piece of non-fiction about their reading (what was interesting to them, what they learned) that will be posted online so that others can benefit from their reading too.”

It’s a sweetly schoolmarmish thought that writers should be encouraged to read. Of course they should. They do.  Good writers read and read and read. Do they really need a grant to do it?

You can read the full story and commentary on it here.

But wives, be warned:


 Advice for wives circa 1896:

The indiscriminate reading of novels is one of the most injurious habits to which a married woman may be subject. Besides the false views of human nature it will impart….it produces an indifference to the performance of domestic duties, and contempt for ordinary realities.

Jenny Offill, Dept of Speculation, Granta Books 2014 (49)

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