I've given up trying to bust through it, and now I'm just enjoying it.
She was a passionate reader, and she thought that reading was one of the noblest efforts of all; in contrast, she found writing to be a great waste of time--a childish self-indulgence, even messier than finger painting--but she admired reading, which she believed was an unselfish activity that provided information and inspiration. She must have thought it a pity that some poor fools had to waste their lives writing in order for us to have sufficient reading materials. Reading also gave one confidence in and familiarity with language, which was a necessary tool for forming those nearly constant comments on what one had observed.John's, the narrator's, grandmother is nothing if not a confident commenter. She is full of inconsistencies like these. Quite a character indeed.
I picture her looking something like Cinderella's wicked stepmother. In truth, and on the kindness scale, she's probably actually closer to the Dowager Countess.