on books: layers of imagining

Went to book club last night, where we discussed The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson, which provoked some lively discussion. It is an absorbing book – circling round the issues of belief and believability, the nature of mental illness, truth and perception. Lots of material for discussion!

After coming home, I started thinking some more about how we read, and what we like to read. Some books we might not say we ‘like’ but will still admit they are good books. We are affected by our perceptions, our experience of life, our likes and dislikes, the things that particularly interest us, the things that influence us. In reading a book, we are not merely listening to the writer’s voice. There are whole nuances of our own that we bring to each sentence.

As I pondered aloud to the group yesterday, I may well read something quite differently from how the author would read it aloud if I heard him/her. We give each sentence our own emphases and inflections – or do not detect that which the author would assume to be there. Penny noted that she had once heard a book she had written read aloud by an American (after my noting that we even read in our own accent) and that he had brought out the tone of sheer irony throughout the book, which differed from her own reading of it. It opened her eyes to a whole new meaning.

The reader is an essential part of the book – all that we bring, all that we add, all that we don’t see (and discussing books is a good way to see things we missed). Our imaginations take the words and form the pictures, in a way that may be entirely different from another reader – especially when there are marked differences in things like cultural background. We see through the lenses of our culture; often we do not even realise we do so. Because books fuel and provoke imagination, they morph into a different shape each time they are read by different people.

I could continue to waffle, but I will stop there. I may add more thoughts in a later entry. I am fascinated by words and how we use them – how we perceive them. It intrigues me how tone of voice and body language influence meaning (see also #17 in my 25 things!). And how one book can mean so many different things to different people – travelling further in thought and layers of imagining than the author ever envisaged.

Today: 4/10, medium

2 thoughts on “on books: layers of imagining

  1. Tricia says:

    One of the things that fascinates me as I write my little stories is how Mike reacts to them when he reads them. He’ll be fascinated by certain parts that I didn’t think were very good, or he’ll pull out some meaning that I never even thought about as I was writing. Sometimes he thinks way more about the characters than I do – lol! So yeah, I’d say there’s a definite relationship between writing and a reader’s perception of what one wrote.


  2. Kathryn says:

    I love reading. My favorite addiction! I particularly like stories where i can "lose myself" in what is happening, but particularly when i relate the the characters. I never read Stephen King until a few years ago, never imagined that i would want to. But at a particular stressful point in my life someone handed me one of his books. It was not one of his more gruesome books, & i was so captivated by his story & characterization. I was an immediate fan – tho he has some books i'd NEVER recommend to anyone!We do a book club at church where we discuss various different books. Right now we're reading one i loved as a child called "Stars in My Crown." But i know what you're talking about as accent. I have no trouble reading this book which is written in "Southern" but some of the people reading it with no accent had a hard time getting into it.


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