Een leuk debat tussen Alex Clark, schrijver en literair criticus en Tom Lamont, Observer schrijver, over boeken uitlezen. foto: Alamy
Alex Clark, writer and literary critic
We’re both committed readers, so we should probably stick together rather than picking a fight. But this funny business of the Hawking Index, a lighthearted attempt to work out how far people persist in reading books, as indicated by the passages they highlight on their Kindles, has got me thinking. And it’s made me realise that my view has changed. I used to believe that if you really weren’t enjoying a book, you should toss it to one side and move on to something you might find more rewarding; essentially, it was born of an insurmountable fear of the sheer number of books I wouldn’t get round to reading before I died. But things have changed. Clearly, I’ve got older and realised that I was a fool to see world literature as a mountain I had to scale, but more to the point, I’ve seen the threat that endless distractions and a wussy, don’t-like-it, bring-me-another attitude poses to our reading culture. I know I risk sounding po-faced, but the best books are a medium of thick description, painstakingly built word by word to produce strange and unexpected effects in the brain and heart; they deserve more than being treated like a passing bit of entertainment that hasn’t quite lived up to the reader’s exacting standards.
Tom Lamont, Observer writer
No: I’m not a clock-watching completist in too much of a hurry to give each book I start a fair chance. But of course you should stop reading when the fireworks aren’t there. When you aren’t impressed, lulled, entertained, lightened, depressed, remoulded, whatever you go to books for. Even if it means reshelving the thing with that telltale halt in the creases on the spine, or admitting to friends, spouses or book clubs that you’ve bunked a recommendation.