But Is It Interesting? by S. M. Hutchens

Column: Mortal Remains

But Is It Interesting?

by S. M. Hutchens

Wherever the criterion controlling what readers read is that writing be "interesting," the standard of intellectual strength and accomplishment must necessarily decline, following the natural laziness of the mind—its desire to be entertained surmounting its desire to learn what is worth knowing. The more worthy desire rests upon the conviction that some writings, whether interesting or not, increase a man's happiness (in the classical sense of the term), and so should be read in preference to others. This, at any rate is the conviction of the classicist, who refuses to advance inferior criteria of worth over the primary and superior.

Such a reader may progress with great difficulty to the end of a piece, and re-read it multiple times, if he is under the impression that it is important, even if only to him. Trained to think this way by my father, I read Lewis's Pilgrim's Regress every year for about ten years, until I thought I understood it pretty well. It was a significant part of my introduction to subjects upon which I had never received any schooling.

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S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.

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