In The Poetics of Reverie, Bachelard writes of reveries on words, then moves to reveries on reveries themselves, which brings him to books. Books (philosophy, fiction, and poetry books in particular) are, for Bachelard, a kind of dream made real. Books are places to dawdle and to dream as one reads, places in which the reader can interact with imagination: the reader’s imagination, not the author’s imagination. The author’s work, if it is great, tempts readers into reverie. For this reason, Bachelard says he likes to read his favorite books many times. Each reading produces new reverie.
Re-reading & reverie Ann E. Michaels on Bachelard, re-reading and reverie
I’ve been posting about books that I love in spite of–or because of–their challenging material in terms of philosophical thinking or complex scientific explanations. It occurs to me there are other forms of “difficult,” and that topic is yet another challenge for the reader to encounter. These are books I found hard to read because of subject matter, events, descriptions of things I cannot imagine, or maybe can imagine, facing.
But I will hearken again to something I heard Marilynne Robinson talk about (see my previous post on AWP). She suggested that literature teaches us compassion. Good art of any kind opens up a new kind of perspective, one that thrusts us out of our own comfortable, individual points of view and therefore allows us–in the safety of our own homes, secure in the knowledge that this is only a book and is not happening to us–to engage with the “other.” When we feel empathy for a problematic character, when we feel we understand another person’s plight, even a fictional person, we move away from narcissistic isolation and into engagement with other beings. And that is compassion.
And that is also art.
A different kind of difficult book « annemichael
Text lasts. It’s not platform-dependant, you don’t just get it from one source, read it in one place, understand it in one way. It is not dependent on technology: it is what we make technology out of. Code is text, it is the fundamental nature of technology. We’ve been trying for decades, since the advent of hypertext fiction, of media-rich CD-ROMs, to enhance the experience of literature with multimedia. And it has failed, every time.
Yet we are terrified that in the digital age, people are constantly distracted. That they’re shallower, lazier, more dazzled. If they are, then the text is not speaking clearly enough. We are not speaking clearly enough. Like over-stuffed attendees at a dull banquet, the mind wanders. We are terrified that people are dumbing down, and so we provide them with ever dumber entertainment. We sell them ever greater distractions, hoping to dazzle them further.
The New Value of Text (via ayjay) I don’t agree with everything the author says in the full piece but it contains some valuable thoughts.
In one of the few autobiographical essays in this collection, “When I Was a Child”, Robinson compares the experience of reading books to that of “a pearl diver finding a piece of statuary under the Mediterranean, a figure immune to the crush of the depth though up to its waist in sand and blue with cold … its lips parted to make a sound in some lost dialect, its hand lifted to a city long since lost beyond indifference”. The image is characteristic of Robinson’s prose – dense with allusion, while also communicating how easy it would be to ignore something simply because it is anachronistic, a little frightening.
Against austerity – FT.com Marilynne Robinson on reading from her new book of essays.
Woolf, by contrast, confronts both her reading and her readers with total immediacy. Free–and fearless enough–to say just what she thinks, she reminds us that reading is, after all (above all) no more than the encounter of one mind with another. She knew that critics “are only able to help us if we come to them laden with questions and suggestions won honestly in the course of our own reading.” But such is the quality of her mind that she achieves what most readers cannot: “those profound general statements which are caught up by the mind when hot with the friction of reading as if they were of the soul of the book itself.
Rohan Maitzen on Virginia Woolf | Open Letters Monthly – an Arts and Literature Review