Monday, August 31, 2015

On Silent Reading

Interesting excerpt on the idea of silent reading, followed by a few comments by me:


...I found parts of this excerpt interesting, other parts puzzlingly discursive. 

I liked the tracing of reading over time from communal and familial to private and solitary. And I liked the descriptions of the dialectic between the reader's inner voice, as the manifestation of the self, and the author's. At times I found Biguenet conflating "silent reading" as a metaphor with it as a phenomenon. And it's just me but I'm not very interested in speculation on the physiology of reading. Other than seeing the fluid interplay between self and writer, as manifest in his text, when reading, I have a clear idea of what silent reading is and that it is indeed silent.

This interested me for among two main reasons:

....So I couldn’t read. My ability to write, though, was undiminished by the psychological trauma of seeing my hometown destroyed. Returning to the city five weeks after the levee collapses, our house uninhabitable, we slept in a daycare center without hot water, where—seated on a twelve-inch-high blue plastic chair with my portable computer resting on a barely taller red plastic table—I wrote fifteen columns for The New York Times...

The first reason is that I've always maintained art provides no solace from afflicting sadness or anxiety. As Biguenet notes, we must be able to subside our selves in order to give ourselves over to another's text. His inability to read after Katrina's devastation is understandable in these terms, even over a long time. Almost by definition, an afflicted self will find no solace in art, I argue, because the afflicted self is the understandably self-consumed self. 

The second reason is the paradox of being able to write but not being able to read as noted as quoted. My guess as to the reason for this is, I'm assuming, writing columns was a job, something that had to be done to meet a deadline and to earn some money, whereas when there was, as I assume, no obligation, no practical need, to read, there is nothing to surmount affliction's block. I can think of times in my life when I was distressed or grieving or heart broken such that art held no sway for me but I could still do my work, which involved reading and writing, among other things. I'd think that If Biguenet was writing columns he could, for example, surmount his affliction enough to proofread them and edit what he wrote.

I imagine against my theory one could cite the instance of writer's block, when the self rebels against sacrificing itself to what's there at hand for any number of reasons. All I can think about that, at the moment, is that writer's block is specific problem within the realm of what one must do, such as writing columns, as opposed to the broad distinction Biguenet describes between being unable to read out of a grieving, afflicted  self and being able to write at the behest of obligation. ...

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