What do we see when we read?
Reading, renowned book cover designer, Peter Mendelsund, reminds us, encompasses internalizing our own memories, desires, expectations, visions & distractions with those that the author uses in his story telling. It is this interactive, “co-creative” undertaking that forms a kind of “mystical union,” with accompanying “mystical revelations,” Mr. Mendelsund contends, whereby the reader “taps the universal, and becomes a medium for it. (Perhaps the process is supernatural?)”
Not too far-fetched. He continues:
Perhaps the very notion that readers are “see-ers” & the conventions we use to describe the reading experience derive from . . . the tradition of visitation, annunciation, dream vision, prophecy, & other manifestations of religious or mystical epiphany. . .
Angels, demons, burning bushes, muses, dreams, seizures, drug-induced reveries.
A far cry from reading as a mere visual process, Mr. Mendelsund shows how our reading imagination can induce the reader not only to look within but beyond the self in a kind of “visual free association untethered from the author’s text. A novel invites interpretive skills, but it also invites our minds to wander.”
Integral to the text, is the imaginative format of this book, reminiscent of that championed by Marshall McLuhan in his ground breaking The Medium is the Message, and in War & Peace in the Global Village. Short, clipped chapters interspersed with white on black pages & text juxtapositions capture on-the-go readers, while citations from the humanities & literature classics are skillfully tiptoed in.
Peter Mendelsund leaves us with this quandary:
Can the visions of literature claim to be, like religious epiphanies, or platonic verities, more real than phenomenal reality itself? Do they point toward some deeper manner of authenticity? Or, by mimicking the real world, do they point to its inauthenticity?