The sun shines, and little birds sing outside the window. Who is to say that they don’t have all the answers, all the knowledge we need?
Inside, I take an opportunity for a lie-in, but unable to stop thinking about my job, about research, reading, writing, and plough on with a book that I find both fascinating and difficult to grasp, to encompass, to master.
But it’s always been like this. Students are often frustrated, like me, that what they feel they need to read is something they also feel they cannot read or cannot read adequately.
Having often felt challenged and frustrated and blocked in this way, many years ago I had to reconcile myself to my own way of reading, just as I had to find my own way of making art, of writing, of living, of surviving etc.
The important thing is to remain positive, and not become disheartened. And so, when I read, I note those things I DO understand, those new words I have acquired by looking them up in the dictionary, and I note that, even when I am tusselling with a sentence, trying to understand it, I am exercising my mind, and something personal is in play as I try to impose my own reading on the words, while concerned that it might not be the ‘correct’ or intended meaning proposed by the author.
I grew up in a generation inspired by the idea of the ‘death of the author’ and the ‘birth of the reader’. And the implications of this idea still have profound, far-reaching and liberating implications.
Once we have acknowledged and engaged with the writing of others as something to which we feel newly entitled to bring our own responses and interpretations, this also has very interesting implications for our own writings.
After all, how will our own writing be read? How could we make it less equivocal? Or perhaps more so? How is a text to be read now, or at another time, when the world as the context for any reading of the text has changed?
All of this, as I hope you can see, makes reading and writing into a swirling realm of playful uncertainties, and as such might alleviate our dread of a text we find ‘impenetrable’ or that we read in fear of revealing our own ignorance or lack of ability.
There are other sounds outside the window, the scoring of the sky by airplanes, the jokes and banter of men working outside, the chatter of children, and cars, cars, cars driving past.
I can’t hear the birds now, but just as the world is full of sounds that we do not decipher in any specific linguistic or semiotic manner, so there is surely an element of our writing, and of the writing of others, that is not its meaning but something more sensory, sensuous, another kind of ‘sense’ that we make – make to each other – something like a scent, or the timbre of a voice, that subtly informs, or may even contradict, the messages that, on a conscious, rational, grammatical and syntactical level, we are passing, or attempting to exchange.