Friday, April 17, 2009


One of the best statements about reading I have ever read comes in the last moments of the first act of Alan Bennett's play, The History Boys, when Hector says:

The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours. (p.56)

This is a powerful moment in the play and a striking observation about the reader and the act of reading. These moments are rare and worth looking for and remembering. One recent moment, for me, was near the end of Anthony Powell's A Question of Upbringing, when Jenkins realizes that his relationship with Stringham has changed permanently and that this sort of change is part of the natural process of living and growing. These moments are universal and the author that can capture them and share them with the reader has managed to portray the universal in the human experience.

The History Boys: A Play by Alan Bennett. Faber and Faber, New York. 2006 (2004)


Lisa said...

Yes! I have had many such moments as I work my way through Proust.

Anna said...

What a marvellous quote!

James said...

Reading is full of such treasured moments.

cynthia newberry martin said...

I love the image of the hand coming out of the book and taking mine.