I recently had the pleasure of reading Margaret Atwood’s book In Other Worlds. An essay collection that examines science fiction and her relationship with it, In Other Worlds is essentially a memoir of Atwood’s reading life. It’s a look at the books that shaped one of the most respected and beloved contemporary writers, and it’s a case for reading widely and without pretension.
Here are four favorite quotes–really, the whole book is terrific and you should read it–to remind you that yes, Veronica, it really is OK to read whatever the hell you want. For this recovering book snob, it was a timely reminder and a kick in the pass. After all, itf it’s good enough for Margaret Atwood, it’s good enough for me.
On reading Ray Bradbury when she was supposed to be doing homework:
“I was, in fact, leading a double life, or even a triple one: the terms highbrow, middle brow, and lowbrow were much in use at that time–the metaphor was based on some idea of Neanderthals having receding foreheads–but I seemed to have a taste for all three kinds of brow, which I can’t say ever disturbed me.”
On taking a course from an academic she greatly admired:
“He had the added benefit of being a reader at all three brow levels, which pleased me a lot; it’s always encouraging to be told that it is intellectually acceptable to read the sorts of things that you like to read anyway.” (emphasis mine)
On the joy of stumbling upon never-before-heard-of books in the library when you should be doing Very Serious Research:
“In those stacks there were more obscure books than you could ever hope to find elsewhere, even on the Internet today, and I whiled away many a misspent hour reading about things that were none of my business.”
On the perks of growing up in a snobbery-free environment:
“Nor did I make any distinctions between great literature and any other kind. I just liked reading.”