Yesterday I blogged about a cartoon, and how a skillful artist can encourage the willing observer not only to look at it, but actually to read it.
What did the artist include? What did he omit? What is the setting?
Who are the characters and what are we being told by body language and facial expression?
What is implied in the dialogue box? Is there a back story? What are the narrative possibilities?
This is one of my favourites. In our household of readers we consider it very rude to interrupt someone who is reading. It better be very important. This is a good thing! We also like to read outdoors, and the garden is large enough for us to spread out and really be alone. To approach silently and then speak from behind startles the reader and may provoke a very impatient retort. We all know and respect that. That’s the way it is.
But when we read this way, we cut ourselves off from our environment and the people in it. Books are important… but what are we missing in the “real” world? The alien creature in the cartoon is friendly, has moved into the reader’s body space, is making eye contact, has obviously identified himself as an alien from a distant place. He is rudely rebuffed.
So what is the opportunity cost? What is in the book, or in devotion to the book, that is more important or more interesting than a surprise encounter with this alien being? What would happen if the reader put down the book, welcomed the stranger as a potential friend, and went off in to the real world for an adventure or, at the very least, an interesting learning opportunity?
What are we missing when we focus only on the printed page, on the ideas and experiences of others, when we allow this to isolate us from first hand experience and personal engagement with the world around us?
Personally, I am not very good with surprises or interruptions… as for surprise interruptions when I am “inside” a good book… !? Unger reminds me, in his usual gentle way, to rethink this attitude.
Here are a few more: