• Beyond the Canvas

A lapsed reader's whinge

"I would like everyone to read, not so they become writers or poets, but so that no one is a slave anymore." - Gianni Rodari


I recently came across this quote by one of Italy's most celebrated and imaginative children's writers and I loved how it framed the argument. We don't read to become erudite bores, we read because when we do our world gets bigger and better, and because reading is a catalyst for freedom, intellectual and otherwise. This is really prosaically put and I am oversimplifying, but you follow.


Fourteen months into intermittent confinements and with more free time to spare, I have zero excuses for not having finished a single book, not one. Catherine Belton's wonderfully-researched Putin's People has been sitting on my nightstand for at least 8 months, but I've barely made a dent in it. Every day I look at the Russian leader's vulpine face on the book's cover and I KNOW I want to delve into Belton's findings, but it's just not happening.


Baseless as this theory may be, it's fair to say I probably have a shorter attention span than the proverbially ill-focused goldfish. Like many, I realise I switch off really quickly, unless I'm watching tennis, that is. Our new uber technological lifestyle is of course largely responsible for this shift. Too much passive digital media consumption has eroded my ability to concentrate. How do I find my way to freedom again? Maybe the secret is to drape oneself in a stylish dressing gown and sit in a paisley-decorated boudoir (with no smartphone or laptop in sight) like this delightful lady. Although now I observe more closely, I think she's just casually looking at the illustrations.


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Félix Vallotton, La Liseuse (1922)

Private Collection

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