How I Misread

I wrote a post recently on the way that I read, but I have been reflecting since then that this description of my reading practise is grossly misrepresentative without a similar account of the way that I also misread.  If it is true, as my earlier post suggests, that reading well demands the discipline to read properly, it also true, to precisely the same degree, that reading well demands the desire to read improperly.  So, though I have already written about this desire in passing on earlier occasions, let me dwell on it now a little more fully.

To read according to desire is to read without regard for anything but the pleasure of the text.  It is to approach the text like a lover, to seek it out wherever it is and wherever it might be.  Those who read like this, who desire like this, who love like this, are always looking, through libraries and bookstores, through the bookshelves of friends, through the recommendations of others, through yardsales and thrift stores and fleamarkets.  When they find what they are seeking, they hunger and lust for it, seize and possess it.  They do not read it, but throw themselves into it, immerse themselves in it, like a madness or a desperation, and they find that they themselves have becomes seized and possessed.

This kind of reading does not remain distinct from the reader, does not leave the reader unaltered.  It permeates the reader’s being, marks it and changes it, leaves the signs of love on it, leaves the scratches and bites of a ferocious love.  The reader bears these scars with a wild and terrified joy, with a fearful pride, hoping and dreading that others will see the wounds and guess what has made them.

At night, lying in bed, the one who desires reading, the one who loves reading, wakes, haunted by the dream of the text, and rises and goes about the house, through the city, into the streets, and seeks, though it does not always find, and yet finds and embraces and does not let go and returns to the house and to the room and to the bed.  The reader who desires is always going and seeking and finding and returning.  The reader who loves is always loving again, and once more, and yet another time, but is never satisfied.  This is the desire without which any practise of reading, any discipline of reading, will be empty and void.

  1. Curtis said:

    I enjoy the differences you present: your reading properly was very regimented calculated and precise, and your reading ‘improperly’ takes a powerplant and focuses it into the raw ability of repeating lightning.

  2. Lauren said:

    I find it interesting that you view reading “without regard for anything but the pleasure of the text” as “misreading” or reading “improperly”. I would imagine that some would consider that kind of reading to be the best, most worthwhile kind.

  3. Lauren,

    I do not mean to imply that one sort of reading is less worthwhiole than the other, only that one is less proper according to the canons and the experts that so often determine what good reading should be.

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