What reading is about?
My mind is blowing; I just finished the reading (for now on, I have to be careful using this word) "What We See When We Read" by Peter Mendelsund. I want to write this review while this strange sensation is fresh; honestly, I don’t know what happened while my eyes were running thru the pages.
The book is a fascinating exploration of the inner workings of the reader's imagination and how it shapes the way we perceive literature. The author argues that reading is not simply a matter of decoding words on a page but rather a creative act in which the reader actively constructs meaning from the text. Through a combination of literary examples, art, and cognitive science, Mendelsund delves into the complex process of reading and offers unique insights that will be valuable to anyone who wants to understand better how we engage with literature.
One of the key takeaways from the book is that reading is an act of imagination. Mendelsund argues that when we read, our minds are not passively receiving information but actively constructing meaning from the text. He explains that the reader's imagination creates the images, characters, and settings we perceive while reading. This means our mental imagery when we read is not a photographic reproduction of the text but a constructed image. The author also points out that this process is not limited to visual imagery but includes other senses, such as sound, touch, and smell.
Another critical aspect of the book is how it examines how literary characters are created in the reader's mind.
Mendelsund argues that characters are not fully formed entities within the text but rather a product of the reader's imagination. He explains that the reader's mind fills in the gaps and ambiguities of a character's description, creating a unique and personal interpretation of the character. This highlights the importance of the reader's imagination in the act of reading and the way it shapes our perception of literature.
The book also delves into the way the structure of a book and its design can affect the reader's perception of the story. Mendelsund explains that the layout, typography, and illustrations can influence how we read and understand the text. He argues that the physical design of a book can guide the reader, directing their attention and shaping their interpretation of the story. This is an exciting insight into how the form of a book can affect its content and highlights the importance of design in the reading experience.
"What We See When We Read" is a thought-provoking and insightful examination of the act of reading. It will appeal to readers interested in the mental and psychological aspects of literature and to writers and editors who want to understand better how readers engage with their work. The author's unique approach to the subject offers a fresh perspective on literature's cognitive and psychological aspects. The book is well-researched, and Mendelsund's use of literary examples, art, and cognitive science provides a rich and engaging context for his arguments.
The book is a must-read for anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of the reading process, the way it shapes our perception of literature and challenges our intuitive knowledge of reading.