Language, like ideology, mediates the here and now, attacking direct, spontaneous connections. A descriptive example was provided by a mother objecting to the pressure to learn to read: “Once a child is literate, there is no turning back. Walk through an art museum. Watch the literate students read the title cards before viewing the paintings to be sure that they know what to see. Or watch them read the cards and ignore the paintings entirely…As the primers point out, reading opens doors. But once those doors are open, it is very difficult to see the world without looking through them.” http://www.primitivism.com/language.htm
As to the pleasure to be derived from education at present by hard-working men, a bookish man is apt to think that even the almighty capitalist can hardly take that away from his slave if he has really learned to enjoy reading and to understand books, and that whatever happens he must have an hour in a day (or if it were only half an hour) to indulge himself in this pleasure. But then does the average hard-working man (of any grade) really acquire this capacity by means of the short period of education which he is painfully dragged through? I doubt it. Though even our mechanical school system cannot crush out a natural bent towards literature (with all the pleasures of thought and imagination which that word means) yet certainly its dull round will hardly implant such a taste in anyone's mind; and as for the caput mortuum, the dead mass of mere information which the worker comes away with when his 'education' is over, he will and must soon forget this when he finds out that it is of little use to him and gives him no pleasure.
Now if I am told that this is à priori reasoning, I am prepared to fortify it by my own observation. I have often been told by working-men (Socialist and others} that they cannot read books; are too tired with the day's work to do so, and the like. Also amongst my middle-class acquaintances, who believe that they work hard, I meet with men who clearly do not read books, and therefore, I suppose, cannot; and I move in each case in a circle that has decided literary tendencies. So that other person's experiences will, I am sure, lead them to conclusions on this point not more favourable than mine.
I generally have four or five books open around the house--I live alone; I can do this--and they are not books on the same subject. They don't relate to each other in any particular way, and the ideas they present bounce off one another. And I like this effect. I also listen to audio-books, and I'll go out for my morning walk with tapes from two very different audio-books, and let those ideas bounce off each other, simmer, reproduce in some odd way, so that I come up with ideas that I might not have come up with if I had simply stuck to one book until I was done with it and then gone and picked up another.
So, I guess, in that way, I'm using a kind of primitive hypertext.
Reading is a civic act. As much as we are suckers for the oral, the written word manages to constitute a social body in ways too often lacking today: a rigor in terms of focus, a polyphony of voices. A friend of ours noted recently that the only activities left today which require full concentration are reading and making love. Sadly, the latter doesn’t even qualify. We don’t believe in the autonomy of art. Perhaps it stems from the very idea of a collective: being multiple deflates the romantic aura of the artist. We’ve never been afraid of our work to be instrumentalized; if anything, we’d like it to be. The question is to what ends? How? Armajani’s reading rooms always engage and create a public but with a confidence that we are only beginning to acquire. His work manages to suggest reading without requiring it.
He preferred to see a type-size not below twelve point used for an ordinary octavo, but he had a strong liking for larger formats. While admitting that some small books were tolerably comfortable, he considered that even the best of them were not as comfortable as a fairly big folio (by which he meant a format at least 12 ¾ × 8 inches). He complained that a small book seldom lay quiet, and that you either had to cramp your hand by holding it, or else had to put it on a table ‘with a paraphernalia of matters to keep it down, a tablespoon on one side, a knife on another, and so on, which things always tumble off at a critical moment, and fidget you out of the repose which is absolutely necessary to reading. Whereas, a big folio lies quiet and majestic on the table, waiting kindly till you please to come to it, so that your mind is free to enjoy the literature which its beauty enshrines.’