9 Things That Happen When You Read

In a series of lectures, Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk ruminated on what goes on in the mind of a person reading a novel. His thoughts are summarized by Susan K. Perry, Ph.D. below.

Do these match your experiences? The point about finishing a (great) novel and feeling that it had been written just for me particularly struck home - it maybe irrational but it's so true!

  1. We observe the general scene and follow the narrative. Whether action-filled or more literary, we read all novels the same way: seeking out the meaning and main idea.
  2. We transform words into images in our mind, completing the novel as our imaginations picture what the words are telling us.
  3. Part of our mind wonders how much is real experience and how much is imagination. "A third dimension of reality slowly begins to emerge within us: the dimension of the complex world of the novel."
  4. We wonder if the novel depicts reality as we know it. Is this scene realistic, could this actually happen?
  5. We enjoy the precision of analogies, the power of narrative, the way sentences build upon one another, the music of the prose.
  6. We make moral judgments about the characters' behavior, and about the novelist for his own moral judgments by way of the characters' actions and their consequences.
  7. We feel successful when we understand the text, and we come to feel as though it was written just for us.
  8. Our memory works hard to keep track of all the details, and in a well-constructed novel, everything connects to everything.
  9. We search for the secret center of the novel, convinced that there is one. We hunt for it like a hunter searches for meaningful signs in the forest.

From Orhan Pamuk's The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist (2009), which originated as a series of six public lectures at Harvard; abbreviated and paraphrased by Susan K. Perry, Ph.D. in Creating in Flow.

This list explains clearly and succinctly the importance of reading for all of us, but especially for our children. Pamuk ceertainly isn't talking about sound bites or instant messaging or texting or tv watching.
# Posted By Sandra Hofsommer | 9/25/11 2:39 PM
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