Mendelsund what we see when we read
What We See When We Read by Peter MendelsundA gorgeously unique, fully illustrated exploration into the phenomenology of reading-how we visualize images from reading works of literature, from one of our very best book jacket designers, himself a passionate reader. A VINTAGE ORIGINAL.
What do we see when we read? Did Tolstoy really describe Anna Karenina? Did Melville ever really tell us what, exactly, Ishmael looked like?
The collection of fragmented images on a page - a graceful ear there, a stray curl, a hat positioned just so - and other clues and signifiers helps us to create an image of a character. But in fact our sense that we know a character intimately has little to do with our ability to concretely picture our beloved - or reviled - literary figures.
In this remarkable work of nonfiction, Knopfs Associate Art Director Peter Mendelsund combines his profession, as an award-winning designer; his first career, as a classically trained pianist; and his first love, literature - he thinks of himself first, and foremost, as a reader - into what is sure to be one of the most provocative and unusual investigations into how we understand the act of reading.
What We See When We Read - Peter Mendelsund- Flipthrough
Near the beginning, Mendelsund, a noted art director for Pantheon Books, sounds a theme that recurs throughout the essay, the phenomenon we know as the fictional character named Anna Karenina. For those who have read the novel, Mendelsund poses a question: What does Anna Karenina look like? People who feel deeply after reading the novel that they know this character may be stumped. It shows a bland, pretty, forgettable face — nothing like our own memory of the character. But if we ourselves tried to sketch the character using only details from the novel, no doubt we would embarrass ourselves. Our sense of character seems to have less to do with visual details than with speech.
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But what does Anna Karenina look like? Nothing so fixed—nothing so choate. Most authors wittingly, unwittingly provide their fictional characters with more behavioral than physical description. We fill in gaps. We shade them in.
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Other than words on a page. What do we picture in our minds? Mendelsund looks at these questions from a thousand angles, zooming in and out as if surveilling them with Google Earth. Because the author is also the associate art director of Alfred A. Mendelsund too often speaks to us as if he is feeding nuts to fragile woodland creatures. Now picture your favorite literary character. The book has few weird or wild hairs.
Thank you! In this brilliant amalgam of philosophy, psychology, literary theory and visual art, Knopf associate art director and cover designer Mendelsund inquires about the complex process of reading. Even if readers follow consecutive words, they incorporate into reading memories, distractions, predispositions, desires and expectations. So we reduce. And it is not without reverence that we reduce.
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