a sipper of sentences

December 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

“[The ideal reader] is skilled and generous with attention, for one thing, patient with longeurs, forgiving over error and the author’s self-indulgence, avid for details . . . ah, and a lover of lists, a twiddler of lines. Shall this reader be given occasionally to mouthing a word aloud or wanting to read to a companion in a piercing library whisper? yes; and shall this reader be one whose heartbeat alters with the tenses of the verbs? that would be nice; and shall every allusion be caught like a cold? no, eaten like a fish, whole, fins and skin; . . . oh, [the ideal reader] will be a kind of slowpoke on the page, a sipper of sentences, full of reflective pauses, thus a finger for holding its place should be appointed; a mover of lips, then? just, so, yes. large soft moist ones, naturally red, naturally supple, but made only for shaping syllables, you understand, for singing . . . singing. And shall this reader, as the book is opened, shadow the page like a palm? yes, perhaps that would be best (mind the strain on the spirit, though, no glasses correct that); and shall this reader sink into the paper? become the print? and blossom on the other side with pleasure and sensation . . . from the touch of mind, and the love that lasts in language? yes. Let’s imagine such a being, then. And begin. And then begin.”

— William Gass, Preface to In the Heart of the Heart of the Country

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