Max Wyman on Libraries and Reading for Pleasure

RA in a Half Day 2013 finished with a rich tale of Max Wyman’s addiction to reading and the ways our culture can support this kind of addiction. As closing keynote, Max Wyman, Canadian arts critic and author of The Black Tulip Conundrum, eloquently described his life as a “readoholic”; “I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. I don’t have to. Language is enough. The intoxication of language is the best kind of state.”

By taking us through his own life from very early childhood on, Max spoke to how reading could infiltrate a life and develop life views that impacted everything he did and wrote himself. He realized early he didn’t just want to be a doer of reading, he wanted to become a peddler, by producing works himself from as early as age nine. Now he is an enabler of readers, contributing to developing other people’s reading habits both in his contributions to the Vancouver Sun and as a board member on the Canada Council for the Arts.

Max also spoke of how “reading begets reading” so that tossing your hands up and proclaiming some types of reading as less valuable is counter productive. To encourage reading, consider it in all forms and consider how it is changing along with technology. Books, he declares, will not disappear, but youth now do not simply read a text left to right along a page. Instead they scan. We need to be flexible in how we use technologies, including books, to encourage reading in all forms. All of these are tool for the ideas we need to inform the heart because, “We live in a thrilling and terrifying world and need every tool we can get to deal with it.”

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