The Fallacy of Immediacy

http://risk-calculus.com/irritable-bowel-syndrome An exemplary piece by Tim Parks at The New York Review on the dream of immediacy when it comes to reading.  “More than any other art form,” writes Parks, “[literature] is pure mental material, as close as one can get to thought itself.” As I wrote already a few years ago now, this is a very old idea, one that keeps recurring as long as the materials of  reading matter. At the moment when books were saturating drawing rooms and bedrooms in the nineteenth century, Percy Shelley would write in a similar vein, “When composition begins, inspiration is already on the decline.” Shelley’s dictum was the writerly equivalent to Parks’ readerly dream. If only the book wasn’t there, the mind of the writer could commune directly with the mind of the reader. We are forever on the hunt for media that allow us to forget them.

chloroquine vente libre The force of this sentiment, always alluring in its simplicity, is that it takes the experience out of reading, the way our bodies and our minds work together when we read — how we hold books, how we annotate them, how we look at them, or where we read them all play a role in lending words meaning. There is an unfortunate ascetism to Parks’ notion of “thought itself” residing in the book, one that overlooks the sensual pleasure that is also reading’s domain. If only we had more histories that helped explain how important this aspect of reading has been to readers over time.