Reading seems a passive act, like playing a recording ... but it's far more. A reader is a performer of an author's work, just as a musician is a performer of a composer's score. Writers struggle to encrypt their ideas in words, strings of arbitrary symbols. Readers take those symbols and decode them back into mental activity. Sometimes the reader's performance is relatively faithful to the original intent, and corresponding ideas take shape in another person's head. Sometimes the message doesn't get through --- it may be written in an incomprehensible language, or require background knowledge and experience that a particular reader lacks.

Sometimes, in the most fortuitous circumstances, the performance exceeds the wildest hopes of the author --- and the reader's mind leaps to concepts beyond those originally dreamed of. That's poetry ... creativity ... progress....

Thursday, June 10, 1999 at 22:28:14 (EDT) = 1999-06-10


The reader has an especially large performing burden when he reads plays. If you can't act for everybody while you read, even the best plays become dull. That is probably why I don't like to read plays.


(correlates: Comments on Unknown Knowns, ValentineWish, ChangeYourLife, ...)