The Art of Reading
“There is an art of reading, as well as an art of thinking, and an art of writing.”
– Isaac D’Israeli
The one thing I never do before purchasing a book is read the reviews. I don’t read reviews for two reasons: the only actual voice I want to hear inside my head is my own and I don’t know if a review is written by someone who can read well. A reader decoding meanings hidden within a text is just one part of being a good reader. The other part is decoding the writer’s true intentions. Communication within the writer-reader relationship must be identical to prevent conflict.
The Institution of Literature is situated on a two-way street. That two-way street is called “Interpretation”. There are only two kinds of people who walk along this street: those who write the text (writers) and those who perceive the text (readers). The writer’s job is to write well. The reader’s job is to read well. To graduate from the Institution of Literature, both the writer and the reader must pass their test. In order to pass the test, the writer and the reader must connect. At some point, they must share the same thought. After all, they are taking the same test.
Reading is the Sister to Writing
Reading and writing go hand in hand. Reading is to writing what hearing is to speaking. In order to be able to interpret something, one needs to pay attention. There are two things a reader needs to pay attention to: what the text says and what the text means.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
– Albert Einstein
Mean What You Say, and Say What You Mean
It’s easier said than done. Reading is more than just interpreting what a text says. Yes, you understand what the text says, but that’s not to say you know what the text means. A good reader reads sentences in relation to other sentences. Reading is about connecting the dots to see the broader context. Usually, the sentence that precedes or follows clarifies the writer’s true meaning. If you think you know the writer’s true meaning, you need to think again. If you know the writer’s true meaning, then you’ve read the book.
Good readers don’t jump to conclusions prematurely and assume they have read a book just because they made it to the last page of the book.
Reading a thousand books and not being able to gain an understanding equal to that of the writers means the reader has never read a book.
“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”
– Benjamin Franklin
The Reader’s Role in Relation to the Writer and the Text
Don’t take it personally. The text is not about you – okay, maybe in some cases it is, but you’ll have to deal with that on your own time. The point is that you have to remove yourself from the equation. The point of reading is to gain something from the text, and in order to do that the text demands that the reader plays a role for the duration it takes you to read the book. The text is the locksmith. It holds many keys, but only one key unlocks the door to the writer’s true intentions. To read well, one must allow the text to do its job and guide. If the reader wanders off, he or she may get lost.
If the writer chooses to write with ambiguity, then one thing is certain: there is a true interpretation. There are no ifs and buts. The answer lies within the very text. If one cannot decipher the meaning of the text it is due to one of two reasons: the writer cannot write well or the reader cannot read well.
Meaning (intention) precedes ambiguity which precedes interpretation.
“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”
– Mark Twain
Artificial Intelligence Vs Intuition
“Riddle me this, riddle me that. Who’s afraid of the big, black bat?”
A good reader reads generously to extract information and reads critically to understand information. Reading generously requires the reader to actively engage with the text on its terms and not the reader’s terms. At this point, the writer has left his or her footprints. Now, it is time for the reader to follow the path left by the writer and create his or her own footprints (aka, critical reading). The moment both the writer’s and the reader’s footprints cross paths is the moment they both graduate from The Institution of Literature.
Artificial Intelligence is seeing what you already know. Intuition is seeing the unknown.
“It is better to know nothing than to know what ain’t so.”
– Josh Billings
Thanks for reading!