This morning while listening to a book my mind filled in a blank. I don’t recall what it was or how it did it but I remember my next thought and it was that what is unread is most important. What I meant by that is it is how we fill in the blanks or read between the lines that determines how we ultimately feel about a book.
I had a mild disagreement with someone earlier in the week about a book. They saw it differently from me and it is fascinating how two people can read the exact same words and come away with completely different interpretations.
Here I was expressing a positive opinion about a book and being rebuffed because someone else had read the same words and hadn’t seen what I had. Art is like that. It is a dance between the artist and the viewer. It is why I try to never say any piece of art is bad. I can dislike it and say it isn’t for me or it isn’t my taste. That neither diminishes me or the piece of art. A piece of art I do not like is for someone else.
That is what reading is, and the important viewing comes through what isn’t shown. We are never given complete pictures. There are always parts of the story left unspoken. It is the famous iceberg under the ocean. There on top is the story and the plot, but underneath are themes layered on top of themes cascading ever deeper.
Reading is a dance between the writer and the reader. The writer might be the one leading, setting the beat, but it is up to the reader to follow and fill in the gaps, and there are always gaps. There is always an interpretation waiting to happen.
This is why 1,000 people can all read the same book and form 1,000 different opinions. Behind those 1,000 different people are 1,000 different lives. Take 1,000 30 year olds and you have a collection of 30,000 years lived. That is more collective experience than any civilization on earth. It should be obvious that there will be 1,000 different viewings of any work of art. We are the collection of our experiences and education and it is impossible for any two people to be identical.
It is our different experiences that cause us to fill in the blanks differently, and what matters most when reading is how we fill in the blanks.