creating the reader




I was taught how to break in a book by a Junior High School librarian. I was a library worker. Junior High School is what we used to call  Middle School.

I have started breaking in books again since I have noticed that many of them fall apart of old age. I wonder if I had broken them in properly they would be in such bad shape as old books.

Relating to the physical object of the book might be something that young students might be lacking.

I have been teaching the Bible to my Kids’ Choir. I give them all Bibles and ask them to find the Psalms. They seem to have no idea what I am talking about. I mention that the Bible is divided up into two main parts, Old and New Testament. After some discussion they seem to understand this. But still putting their hands on the correct part of the book is something of a puzzle for them.

In order to get them to understand the proportions of the physical book I suggest that the psalms are somewhere in the middle.

Doing this reminds me that sometime in my education a teacher taught me to estimate exactly where I wanted to land in a book and to turn there. For example using a dictionary I automatically think of where the word I am looking for might possibly be and attempt to open the page at that point.

As I use my Kindle and computer I think about the fact that I continue to do these kinds of mental processes which are based on a relationship to the physical object. I wonder how readers who don’t have a relationship to a physical experience and instead are reading screens of one type or another conceptualize.

I know that using the Oxford English Dictionary online is a great experience. I like the interface they have built to this huge collection of information. Much easier to use it than the multi-volume version (which I never could afford anyway).

So there are the inevitable trade offs of change.

In the meantime, I value my own visualizations and attempts at dragging my physical experience of reading (which I value) into my cyber experiences (which I also value).

Here’s a beautiful paragraph I read this morning in Lyndall Gordan’s bio of T. S. Eliot which sparked some of my musings.

Soul history and sermon are the dominant forms of American writing from the time of the Puritan settlement in the seventeenth century; to retrieve them is to be that quintessential New Englander which Eliot claimed transplantation brought out. For he shared with Emerson, Thoreau, and Dickinson, and Whitman too, a guarded mode of confession Unlike St. Augustine or Rousseau, who draw us into intimacy, these Americans throw the onus of introspection back into the lap of the reader. Their confessions, like The Waste Land, are fragmentary and, left so deliberately incomplete, demand a reciprocal effort. The point lies not in their content so much as in the reader’s act of self-discovery and judgment. The purpose is not expose the speaker but to create the reader.”

from T. S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life by Lyndall Gordan, p. 149

In addition here are two poems by Jack Micheline I read this morning and admire.


Everywhere I go is beauty
trees illuminated
street lights glowing in the darkness
I want to run up to strangers and kiss then
but there is too much noise
men kill each other
I’m sick and tired of seeing sad faces
stop that bastard machine
everyone is God and Holy
a spike is ripping at my throat
I smell a fragrance of a rose
every I go is beauty



I was sitting in my room
shining with light

I called up twenty people
to come and look at my shining light

I waited
and nobody came
my room shining with light

Nobody has time for light!

3 thoughts on “creating the reader

  1. I like the picture of the man sitting amongst the books, and it reminds me of this Twilight Zone I saw as a kid, and which I still remember vividly. (oddly, the only one I ever remember seeing…). It was about a man who loved to read, and everyone else in his life (his wife, his boss) didn’t, and thought he shouldn’t be wasting his time. He is hiding out in the bank vault over lunch, reading, when something (a bomb?) seems to destroy all the people on earth. After his shock, he sets about gleefully collecting all the books he will read for the rest of his life, stacking them all around them. I won’t give away the ending, but I find it strange that I remember it all these years later…
    I like the light poem too!

  2. thank you Rhonda and Jonny for commenting. Rhonda, I also remember that episode of the Twilight Zone. That show and several others are childhood memories for me which continue to linger (in a good way). I bought paperback editions of the stories by Rod Serling that were either based on the series or vice-versa. They do seem to stick in the brain. Jonny, thanks for the heads up about the Ulysses Audio book. i also use Herrick libraries online streaming service of audiobooks which has a version of this (In order to access these online books you have to go to,

    then scroll down and click on the link ( This will prompt you to enter you library card number and pin. Then you can stream a bunch of audio books. Very cool.

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