IVP - Behind the Books - Good Solitary Reading

December 21, 2012

Good Solitary Reading

'Tis the season for making introverts uncomfortable, what with so many people and parties and busyness. (I should know. I am one.) If you're craving some "alone time," you're not alone. Here's a nice passage about what a difference some peace and quiet can make for our reading habits.

But first, a moment of word history: sullen in this quotation is used in an archaic sense connected with its etymology, meaning "solitary." Don't be put off! It doesn't mean "showing silent resentment" here.

Here's what Stephen Maturin, a main character in Patrick O'Brian's multi-volume historical novel set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, has to say:

[G]ood sullen reading is rare in a house, unless one is blessed with an impregnable and sound-proof room of one's own: interruptions, restless unnecessary movements, doors opening and closing, apologies, even whisperings, God forbid, and meal-times. For the right deep swimming in a book, give me the sea: I read Josephus through between Freetown and the Fastnet rock last voyage: the howling of the mariners, the motion of the sea and the elements (except perhaps in their utmost extremity) are nothing, compared with domestic incursions. Since then, mere newspapers, gazettes, periodical publications, all light frothy fare apart from the Proceedings, have imperceptibly drunk the whole of my time and energy.

— Patrick O'Brian, The Yellow Admiral (New York: W. W. Norton, 1996), p. 42f.

The Yellow Admiral

So lest the holidays threaten your reading with their "domestic incursions" and "light frothy fare," be sure you have a good book packed and ready at hand!

Posted by Jon Boyd at December 21, 2012 12:48 PM Bookmark and Share

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