Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why I Read by Peter Coyote

An occasional feature in our email newsletter is the "Why I Read" column. We've collected some wonderful short essays on the topic from fine writers over the years. Here's what actor and writer Peter Coyote had to say back in April of 2006 when we asked him:
I read, because I prefer being the casting director for my own imagination and expanding my circle of friends to include Odysseus, Anna Karenina, Julian Sorel, Richard III, The Snopses, and old ambidextrous Portnoy. There is no coffee shop or lecture hall in the world that can offer the breadth and depth of humanity I get from spending several hours with a good book. In non-fiction, reading is the perfect antidote to sound-bytes, spin, leaden-headed reporters and talk-radio, which usually sounds like an ad for anger-management classes. Print can be highlighted, reviewed, clipped, scanned and pondered. It is, in effect, in-depth conversation with great and informed minds or wits that make what passes for comedy on TV seems like a runny ichor (a word you won't hear on TV). Surrounding yourself with the concentrated work of men and women who have had the guts and temerity to wrestle with a subject for the length of time required to write a book is a corrective to shallow thought, leaping to conclusions, and running blindly through cross-fires of argument armed only with a pundit’s opinion masquerading as fact. Reading is the deliberate slowing down of the acquisition of knowledge and sensation, based on the time-tested truism that good ideas, like good whiskeys, need to mellow and accrete complexity and flavor over time. Finally, I love the company of books. They rest on my shelves like old companions who are ever ready to summon up shared memories and re-engage and review humanity's finest moments from earlier times.
--Peter Coyote

PS. Other installments of the series await you by Beth Lisick, Susan Choi, Peter Rock, Dave Eggers, Daniel Handler, TC Boyle, Joyce Maynard, and Peter Carlson. What other authors should we solicit?


Steve Heilig said...

Great stuff.

nobody asked, but i read because if i didn't, i likely would have wound up a drugged out, narrow-minded, money-grubbing real estate agent, or something. so thanks to suess, tolkien, brautigan, vonnegut, kesey, kerouac, giono, and all the other authors of my early years who helped show me there is a bigger world than any of us can know by ourselves. and to green apple for feeding the addiction.

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