Sunday, August 31, 2008


Closing a book recently, I came rather suddenly to realize the intimacy of reading.

Good reading gets so far inside, so deep. . .it tells you about things you never mention to anyone else. It tells you things you didn't know about yourself until you read them. It's been said that the difference between a good writer and a great writer is that the former makes you think, "I feel just like that!" whereas the latter makes you think, "I never knew it, but that is how I feel."

Some characters get closer to you than any characters in your life know how to get, and when you back off, they wait until you are ready to let them approach again.

And you can get as close to them as your mind or your heart will let you. Sometimes your mind is a thick hedge, so you can't get too close right then. When you read that same book, months or years later, you are surprised by what you can touch, or be touched by, now. And sometimes it is your heart that is too timid to let a character fully inside, so that, months or years later, when pain and sorrow have made your heart more flexible and less afraid of fear, you are surprised at how close a character comes to entering the quietest, least visited cave within you.

1 comment:

Mom N said...

Don't know if you'll ever see this, Elouise, as the original post was written months ago. But I've been reading Alberto Manguel ("The History of Reading") and Sven Birkerts ("The Gutenberg Elegies"), both about the intimacy, the transformative nature, of reading--in conjunction with Maryann Wolf's "The Proust and The Squid: The Story of the Reading Brain." All this as kind of background reading for a presentation at next spring's 4C's convention in San Francisco on technology and consciousness--what's happening to the current freshman generation's consciousness when they forego reading for texting on their cell phones? This is a testy question, as I've discovered as I've given small presentations in prep for the big one. Oooh, people don't like to be asked it. They want their toys, not my books--books are genuinely retro. Only my die-hard Brit lit students really get into reading--even the creative writing students laugh uncomfortably when I talk about finding authors they love. Books? Intimacy? Transformation? Something wicked is coming this way, and it's called personal electronics. Wd love to hear your views.