Reading Jags

I introduce a new category of blog posts called “Reading Jags.” These posts will plot some of the jags in my reading life. They may not interest my blog readers. But they still have value for me. Reading is a critical component in my conception of the life of the mind. So is writing. For me, reading and writing work in tandem and in many ways. Both are mostly solitary activities.

The solitude of writing can trick an author into writing only for himself. But writing is a means of self-formation, self-discovery, and self-understanding. This is one of the great things about the activity. Writing for others comes out different than writing without regard for potential readers. If I want to know what form my thoughts might take as they are put into words, I need to be sensitive to the ways my mental set at the time of writing governs the flow of ideas. My mental set is different when writing to an individual than it is when writing for a larger audience. It is different when I write for a specific audience. And it is different when I have no audience. Writing for self-formation includes writing for others.

Blogging provides a convenient arena for writing for self by writing for others. For the blogger, there is at least the illusion that others will read what I have written. And that influences the way I write, which in turn influences the flow of ideas. If I value that flow of ideas, I need to write for others. And there has to be the very real possibility that what I write will be seen by others—friendly others, anonymous others, others who write and read, others who read but don’t write, others for whom English is their native language, others for whom English is a second language, others whose values overlap my own, and others whose values do not.

So my “Reading Jags” will be reflections on reading I have going on, reflections whose form will doubtless be shaped by the possibility that others will be looking over my shoulder as I read, reflect, and write. And if you wish to comment on any of these jags, I hope you will.

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