Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Nabokov on Macro and Micro Reading

I'm aware that though I arrive at my many made-up terms independently, the concepts they attempt to describe have existed for decades (centuries?).


Here's Vladimir Nabokov (from the essay in the post below, "Good Readers and Good Writers") on what I call macro and micro reading:

"In reading, one should notice and fondle details. There is nothing wrong about the moonshine of generalization when it comes after the sunny trifles of the book have been lovingly collected."

I agree! But this has never stopped me from formulating a (hypo)thesis about a book 13 pages in. It has prevented my posting about books before I read and reread them obsessively.

My mom sees I'm reading Revolutionary Road, the book open to a page littered with marginal scribblings (I'm a carnal, rather than a courtly lover of books). Then: Haven't you already read that, Becky? Of course I have! But now I'm READING it.

Again, Nabokov understands my actions and motives better than I or my mother - even after I try, futilely, to explain them:

"Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader. And I shall tell you why. When we read a book for the first time the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, the very process of learning in terms of space and time what the book is about, this stands between us and artistic appreciation."

Precisely!

There will be more substantive posts soon, though the beautiful Chicago summer slyly hints to me that "there are times when one is not in a disposition thoroughly to relish good writing."
(via Laudator Temporis Acti - from Charles Lamb in a 1796 letter to Coleridge)

I've not yet been afflicted with that disposition, but it's early in the season.

2 Comments:

Amateur Reader said...

Ah, this is what I try to do at Wuthering Expectations, notice and fondle the details, and collect the sunny trifles. Plenty of other writers are handling the generalizations.

Dorothy W. said...

I just finished Nabokov's Lectures on Literature and thought it was great. I didn't always agree with him, or perhaps it's that I think his way of reading is one good way among many. But his ideas were always interesting. I hope to post on that book soon.