The Cost of Reading

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My friend Monidipa writes a great deal about books and reading on her blog, and a paragraph in her latest post about e-readers (or electronic reading devices) was particularly perceptive of the class and geo-cultural determinents inherent in the “simple” act of reading — especially so for a country where the public library system was a stillborn, and all reading has to be done at one’s own expense. Indeed, her post reminds me of the self-absorbed poetics of privilege demonstrated by the once-omnipresent meme, “Date a girl who reads“, if only because it is the exact opposite of that most irksome thing.

Things only started getting very murky when my parents’ house in Calcutta ran out the space for decently stocking the steady stream of books I kept buying. The first to go were my lovingly catalogued bookshelves. Soon books were being poked into any little space that was empty on the shelves. After a while, I had a stack of books permanently on the floor. Besides, there was the daily (okay, let’s say weekly) exercise of dusting, de-cobwebbing, napthalene-izing, which I often didn’t have the time or the energy to do, and which always made the maid grumble. Never had it occured to me so strongly that owning a large and well-maintained collection of books was like owning a piano or a Ferrari or the proverbial white elephant — it demands a kind of privilege of circumstances that you cannot acquire by merely paying the price printed at the back.

If you like, you can read the whole post here.

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