LITERATURE: If on a winter’s night… – Reader Input

Calvino has made a practice here of saying and doing. He is explaining writing tricks and traits even as he pulls them.  He explains critique as easily as he explains audience.  Audience, after all, is what this novel is about; the reader.

Would you like to be in his place, to establish that exclusive bond, that communion of inner rhythm, that is achieved through a book’s being read at the same time by two people, as you thought possible with Ludmilla?  You cannot help giving the faceless lady reader evoked by Marana the features of the Other Reader whom you know; you already see Ludmilla among the mosquito nets, lying on her side, the wave of her hair flowing on the page, in the enervating season of the monsoons… (p. 125)

Two things being presented here.  The first is the idea of the reader filling in the details that are missing, drawing upon his own experience to supply him with a more complete picture that is within his comfort zone.  He is thus relating to the setting, story, and character.  In supplying a face to a character, he is forming a relationship of empathy with the character.  In this case, the reader’s interest in Ludmilla has softened the character of the mysterious Sultana of Arabia. He has made the connection because both are readers, both are powerful women in their hold via reading over their men; and both are barely approachable.

We assign memories to our readings.  Our readings then change our memories.  Barthes?

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