Some people get stuck on the surface of things. The protagonist in my novel, The Eleventh Letter, is always off the beat, just outside of knowing someone, or in other ways falling out of time. He’s a reader who doesn’t understand that although things only happen on the surface, that there’s no such thing as depth, getting lost in wondering what the surface means is a trap.
Everything reads as it says, but you have to let it into you for something to happen. Things you don’t accept, that you don’t understand, they hang around like static, messing up the message, showering you in question marks like shrapnel from word bombs. Or you may break away from what is being said without realising it, the feelings of starting to know something deeply being too much. You dissociate.
Reading things closely involves a special kind of emotional connection, whether it’s faces that we’re talking about or pages of a book. The closer we look the more we can experience the intention behind the word, the sentence; the smile, the frown. We may see something the author didn’t intend to be seen, or didn’t even know was there to be read, like a slip of the tongue.
I’ve worked with people who have dyslexia, and discovered the way they read is connected to the way that they over- or under-feel, their difficulties with words collateral damage from early life trauma.
I’ve worked with slow readers and found that the slowness of their reading is a kind of sifting and sensing. When they have read something they know it, they recognise something of its force, far better than I could ever have imagined it, myself. And I am quite a slow reader.
I know fast readers, too, who move through streams of words following something like currents in water; something like patterns in clouds that show the force of the wind and the heat. This is more how I read, true to the letter but also to the qualities printing.
Reading. Now I am starting to meet people who read things as broken: the discontinuous effects of the internet and text messages, at a further remove from an author than writing has ever been, but right inside something, too: in fantasies differently, perhaps more completely than a pen ever managed.