Sunday, July 22, 2012

Reading for pleasure.


Last evening, I was giving a public lecture jointly with my best friend Ryo Hatoh at the Academy Hills in Tokyo. In the aftermath, we were doing the small talks, when Ryo casually mentioned how he used to love reading the Lord of the Rings.

That gave me an idea. This morning, I visited Amazon and downloaded the kindle version of this famed trilogy.
Here’s a little bit of personal history. I read the Japanese translation of the Lord of the Rings when I was a junior high student. Then, at senior high, about 4 years after starting to learn English, I made the (then for me) daunting effort of reading the original version. I must confess it was hard at that time. But I enjoyed the trial even so.

I still remember how I waited eagerly the end of the exam period. Released from the burdens of cramming, I would walk carefree under the blue sky, get on the train, and start reading the Rings straight away.

I still remember the tremendous joy I felt going through the pages, and yet, there was also a sense of guilt. In an educational system where too much emphasis is put on paper exams, absorbing oneself in a fantasy novel seemed to be a silly idea, even if it improved my English capabilities in a general sense.  It was actually this sense of guilt that made the reading of the Rings such a thrilling adventure.

Seeing through the (with the benefit of hindsight) perverse perceptions, I can now understand how my learning should have been organized. My English education should have been exactly like the experience of reading the Rings, rather than filling my head with silly grammatical rules. Lord of the Rings was actually a much better English teacher than all the meaningless entrance exam preparations combined.

Now I am looking forward to my second read, after 30+ years. 30+ years. Gee. 

9 comments:

Denise Wong said...

I am, enjoying your post. You should write in this blog more often Ken. And oh, what a big font size! Enjoy your reading, I am tempted to re-watch the Lord of The Rings film! I haven't read the book yet.

What do you think of the cinematic experience of watching it with great sound performance and really big screen? I want to go for it once again, and again.

I think enjoying the Rings in cinema and reading the book on a train are both an entirely different experience, different degree of excitement, expectation and, imagination.

Tsuyoshi Idei said...

It is a pleasure for me to read “the qualia journal” because of getting a rare opportunity to read a series of English texts written about Japan and Japanese.
After reading full journals, we hold in our hands the power to journey into an English space.

hiro said...

I agree with you. I remember that I tried to read "Anne of Green Gables" when I was a high school student. Though it was so difficult for me at that time and I gave up at the beginning of it.
Recently I started reading it again. I am 57 years old now, and I found reading (in English) gave me pleasure. I must say that it is still very difficult and I am very slow. When I was a student every words and grammar stuck me. Now I just enjoy reading. I just skip difficult parts. I consult a dictionary only when I eager to know the meaning. It is a big gift for me that I find a nice time.

(ma)gog said...

I have given the "I like it" mark to this entry on Facebook just this morning. It is nice to see though, that you update your English blog as you used to.
So you had the pleasure in reading the original "the Lord of the Rings" before you read "Anne of Green Gables"!
I remember as well picking up English books in the small corners of the big book sotres like Kinokuniya, or Senseido, as those days the number of English books was so limited even in the main book stores in Tokyo, just from the curiosity and the secret yearning for the misteriously written foreign literatures. The very first sensation that I had found when I came across with "Anne" series, still so vividly remains in me after 30+ years! Yes, after 30+ years. GEE!

hiro said...

I agree with you. I remember that I tried to read "Anne of Green Gables" when I was a high school student. Though it was so difficult for me at that time and I gave up at the beginning of it.
Recently I started reading it again. I am 57 years old now, and I found reading (in English) gave me pleasure. I must say that it is still very difficult and I am very slow. When I was a student every words and grammar stuck me. Now I just enjoy reading. I just skip difficult parts. I consult a dictionary only when I eager to know the meaning. It is a big gift for me that I find a nice time.

エンゼルストランペット said...

Hi,Dr.Mogi.
I enjoyed your post after a long separation. It reminds me of the joy of reading with looking up words in a dictionary.
We are making an independent film.Please drop in our site, http://mageshima.web.fc2.com

May said...

I like the larger font! Will come back more often :-)

julie said...

Really interesting set of posts here, sir. learned about your blog because of your arashi ni shiyagare guesting hahaha! (yes I'm a fan). Ah, but that was really interesting, especially that bit about different modes and how confusion or being out of your comfort zone actually stimulates the brain. I guess reading something in another language falls on that category too (in my case it's trying to read manga in japanese since I'm Filipino and I'm only familiar with Tagalog and English).
Incidentally, I just finished reading "the hobbit" again (for the nth time) just to remember how different it was from the movie version. I try to read LOTR every year as well and it's surprising how it still gives me that sense of adventure that never gets old no matter how many times I had tread that path.

Blogger said...

There is a chance you're qualified to get a free $1,000 Amazon Gift Card.