Essay III: Risks of Reading

Reading must be learned in an environment as a matter of survival. Bringhurst’s biological, ecological view has ramifications for the quality of life of a reader. Readers know a lot of facts that escape non-readers, and a lot of theories too. The maximalist mind of Joyce is that of an inveterate reader. Paradox: not many can read Finnegans Wake.

So it goes.

So you want to be a writer. You must learn to read tricky environments or they will defeat your purposes. In Bringhurst’s phrase, at risk is “the ground of mind itself.” He cites Bach’s fugues and the 30,000 year-old paintings of Chauvet (the lion panel) and Central African musicians of recent times. These works and many others are examples of polyvocalism (cf. polyphony).

As a good reader your mind must learn how to read complex, intermediations of sense. They are the flesh of our minds. The mind, Bringhurst concludes, “consists of abstract patterns formed from multiple chains of concrete sensory perceptions.”

True: Vertigo is a clear and present danger. Think of Durer’s Melancholia. That’s you on a bad day.

Yes, writing helps us express our selves. But we only have selves to express because we can read.

The other side of vertigo is ecstasy. We know ecstasy in the very flesh of our readerly minds. The community of readers know a companionship that is the ultimate love, the love of the ultimate, unnamed and unnamable, the unfulfillable desire of our beings. J

Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at tom.develyn@comcast.net. D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at http://tdevelyn.com and other sites.

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