The Right Coast

October 14, 2004
Emerson was a philistine
By Tom Smith

I kind of like all that New England individualism (e.g., I like Walden), but I can't think of Emerson the same way since I read (somewhere) what he said about reading. He said that whenever he found himself getting "absorbed" in a book, he would stop reading until the feeling went away. He said you should only read for a purpose, such as to find stuff to support your theories. That ranks up there as one of the most philistinian remarks about books and reading I have ever heard, along with "Have you read all these books?" (Which is like asking a wine collector if he has drunk all the wines represented in his cellar. No person who cares about books could ask such a question.)