Main      Site Guide    
Message Forum
Vivian Darkbloom
Posted By: MissyClar, on host
Date: Tuesday, September 18, 2001, at 15:22:20

Having recently read an essay by Vladimir Nabakov about good readers and good writers, I've come to realize that I've been a lowly reader all of my life. Shockingly enough, my grade school teachers of the past have all contributed to my becoming what I am, though I'm sure they all had good intentions. See, he lists a couple qualities of a good reader:
1) Using a dictionary - I'm pretty lazy about this. I have a pretty good vocabularly, but picking up word meaning from context doesn't give one a precise definition.

2) A good memory - this is an internal memory of all that happens in a book, not an external memory - I've often been told to bring personal experiences into literature and I've often been told things like "the marquee represents the upper class (in A Tale of Two Cities)" before even reading about the marquee. Vlad's point is we should be "approaching [the book] as something brand new".

3) Great attention to details - Of course, Nabakov is the king of excessive allusion, so it's obvious how important it is to study all details in his books carefully. "Fondle the details".

4) A balance between artistic sense and scientific mind - This is a mistake I have long made. While most readers have no problems paying attention to the beauty of the language, I definitely neglect my cool, aloof side when reading. As he puts it, "a merging of the precision of poetry and the intuition of science".

He also mentions some characteristics of a "lowly reader":
1) Bringing base emotions into literature: Many a teacher had told many a student, "emphasize with the character, identify with the character" but Nabakov makes clear that by doing this, we project our own qualities and experiences into a book. The lowly reader loves to read about himself, so that suits him just fine, but emotional reading will keep them from understanding a book.

2) Similar to the first item, another mistake is to believe that an author agrees with one's own views. Again, more projecting of self into the author's separate world.

Anyway, I thought all this was interesting and at sometimes shocking. Has anyone else had to make major changes in the way they read, or in the way they experience any kind of art?

Replies To This Message