The Dreaming Swimmer by Clive James

Bookish observations while reading Clive James’ The Dreaming Swimmer

Actively reading interactive books of the printed kind

How many times have I read a book and wanted to hear the music the author mentioned, see an image of the art the author has gushed over, or know who it was the author quoted, deferred to and admired? Many times!

The Dreaming Swimmer by Clive James

THE DREAMING SWIMMER
BY CLIVE JAMES

I’m reading a book published in 1992, “The Dreaming Swimmer“, it’s a collection of non-fiction articles written by Clive James between 1987-1992. It’s a book I randomly selected at my local library. It was in one of those trays waiting to be re-shelved. I browse the trays looking for an “accidental discovery”, a serendipitous find. I’ve always enjoyed Clive James’ interviews on television and have occasionally read a little of his work. So the book went into the book bag, to be given a piece of my precious reading time later, if it measured up. It did.

As I read Clive’s book, the journey takes me back in time, introducing me to people I don’t know, music I haven’t heard and art I’ve never seen. Every chapter is full to the brim of interesting characters and experiences all described in prose that echoes Clive’s dulcet tones.

Sitting with the book perched on my book stand and my iPad alongside, I’m experiencing a little piece of heaven because I can interact with the non-electronic book. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy electronic books with all their distracting links and I don’t mind the back-light. It’s more about accessing books that are no longer in the mainstream but are worth reading, actively reading.

Active reading is something I do. Something I once felt guilty about. There was a time I thought I was just distracting myself because every time I sat down to read, I would read one or two paragraphs before my mind would go off on tangents. Curiosity was and is the driving force behind my desire to read beyond the words on the page. The words on the page ignite the imagination and then I’m off. Before I go any further I should attempt to define active reading, so here goes:

Active reading is a process whereby the reader brings their knowledge along on the journey, adds to it a desire to know more and the ability to seek it out without losing the thread of the original piece.

If you want to know more about active reading, the “art” of reading, there’s lots of explanations on the internet but it gets a bit scholarly and complicated. Harold Bloom, a man who knows a lot about reading, wrote a book titled How to read and Why, if you want to know more. I say just give yourself permission to “actively” read, interact with the internet and all it has to offer in tandem with the book or article. A word of caution, if you’re like me, with boundaries on your reading time, don’t chase too many rabbits down their holes or you’ll never finish what matters most, that is, the original piece.

By actively reading Clive’s book, I’ve learned that he wrote songs with Pete Atkin and I listened to one of them, “Touch has a memory“, I saw Sarah Raphael’s art for the first time and was so sad when I heard she didn’t live a long life, I listened to a snippet of Regine Crespin sing a classic, even though opera is not my thing, and I’m only half way through the book.

Who needs television when you can create your own documentary. Just take a little time to interact with a book of the printed kind.

Bye for now!

This blog was written by Diane Challenor 2011

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