Writers on reading: Vladimir Nabokov

BookerTalk

Nabokov quoteIn 1980 Vladimir Nabokov wrote an essay called Good Readers and Good Writers which included this comment about reading and re-reading which seems contradictory the first time you see it. On closer inspection though I think what he’s reflecting is that the first time we read a particular text we don’t appreciate many of its subtleties. We’re so busy engaged in the physical process of reading, moving the eye across, down, over to absorb information, we don’t notice all the connections between different parts of the book or the nuances of meaning. Nor, until we get to the end do we also recognise the significance of particular episodes.  Only when we read it again can we see how the parts combine into the whole.  Nabokov claims that it’s only on a third or fourth reading, that we start behaving toward a book as we would toward a painting, holding it all in the mind at once.

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