The democracy of reading
We book-centric people tend to put a lot of our focus on authors. They’re the ones who bring us the stories & information we love, right? We often forget that we readers brings a unique perspective to each thing we read, making the act of reading a more complex alchemy than one might think.
One of my literary heroes is Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, & heaps of other tasty stories. He has some significant things to say about the role of a reader.
“…there are different things we as readers bring to a text—our different expectations, our varying intellectual limitations or gifts, our experiences of previous texts, our predictions about this one. These are necessary things; without them we wouldn’t begin to make sense of any text at all; and they’re also inevitable; we can’t look at any text in a state of nature, as it were, and pretend we know nothing, and come to it as complete virgins. We have to bring something to the text, and put something into it, in order to get anything out. This is the great democracy of reading and writing—it makes the reader a true partner in the making of meaning.”
His term “democracy of reading and writing” manages to celebrate our differences at the same time it celebrates the connective tissue of our humanity.
I say bravo to the democracy of reading.
The quote above comes from a 2017 collection of Pullman’s essays and lectures, Daemon Voices: On Stories & Storytelling.