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What We See When We Read

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A 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, Knopf's 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.

425 pages, Paperback

First published August 1, 2014

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About the author

Peter Mendelsund

9 books127 followers
Peter Mendelsund is the associate art director of Alfred A. Knopf and a recovering classical pianist. His designs have been described by The Wall Street Journal as being “the most instantly recognizable and iconic book covers in contemporary fiction.” He lives in New York.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 928 reviews
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68k followers
November 2, 2020
The Heavenly Conspiracy

Here’s the truth that few want to recognise: Most of what we read (or for that matter hear) is made up, not by the writer but by ourselves. Forget about what words on the page refer to. Mendelsund is not interested in the classical problem of epistemology. We add immense amounts of descriptive and contextual material to what’s on the page without being aware of our doing so. According to Peter Mendelsund, “... the idea of a mirror is an analogy for the act of reading.” What emerges from a book is largely our own imaginations reflected back. The more the author withholds, and this is usually a great deal, the more imagination we supply, right from the first words. As he says, “All books open in doubt and dislocation.” We are thrown in to the sea of reading every time we open a new book; and we have to learn how to swim all over again in that particular place with its unique character, dangers, and surprises.

While psychologists have known that people are not the best witnesses to any of their experiences (including, presumably, their experience of reading), they really haven’t described the phenomenology of this fictionalisation of fiction. Philosophers since Kant have realised that what we see is a function of our human sensory apparatus. But they haven’t had much to say about how human language ability isn’t like other human ‘senses.’ Mendelsund has an interesting suggestion. Reading, and by implication all language-using, he suspects, is really an act of transcendence, not only transcendence of the text but also transcendence of the other immediate aspects of life including much sensory input. “You are neither in this world, the world wherein you hold a book (say, this book), nor in that world (the metaphysical space the words point toward),” he speculates.

I think Mendelsund is on to something. I agree with his assessment that “A book feels like the intersection of these two domains—or like a conduit; a bridge; a passage between them... An open book acts as a blind—its boards and pages shut out the world’s clamorous stimuli and encourage the imagination.” While reading we take on an entirely distinct existential condition for which we don’t have an articulate description, not even a name. By its very nature, reading is an escape - but not onto the text. The act of reading is a kind of transformation, not just a fleeting intimation, but another mode of being.

Mendelsund makes the further interesting observation that this transformation is the same phenomenon that we experience while listening to music. This suggests that we may hear much more of what we read than we are conscious of. The parallels between composition in both modes provokes some intriguing aesthetic insights: “In music, notes and chords define ideas, but so do rests.” This I find particularly exciting. Perhaps there really are books written in different keys, just as there are symphonies telling their own genres of stories. And perhaps the conspiracy between reader and writer that produces this other world of literature and music is the source of our idea of... well, of heaven.
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
780 reviews5,385 followers
August 9, 2016
We perform a book, and we attend the performance.

Words have a unique power to impose pictures into the inward eye of the mind¹ In a recent thread, a friend commented on how Homer, despite his supposed blindness, had the ability to create metaphors which were more visual and imaginatively stunning that modern CGI has been able to manage. Words have a power that even visual stimulation cannot capture. It is interesting to consider the cliche that ‘the book is better than the movie’ which—in most cases, though still debatable on many—tends to be true. Consider all the different forms of art that converge onto the silver screen. There is the script and writing, the acting, the directing, editing, sound and musical score, all that work together towards capturing an intended emotional response and resonance. Yet, despite all the efforts of many artists to capture a novel in a more immediate and mulit-sensory way, the words on the page hold more of a grip on our hearts and minds. ‘Books allow us certain freedoms,’ Peter Mendelsund—of whom most of you are familiar with through his art direction of book covers even though you may not yet realize—posits in his book What We See When We Read, ‘we are free to be mentally active when we read; we are full participants in the making (the imagining) of a narrative . In a film, we are shown what to think, not given the agency of reading. Examining the visual aspects of novels and the way that the imagination fills in the gaps, Mendelsund delivers insightful musings alongside the opinions of many brilliant minds and couples this with an artistic flair that makes for an enlightening and stimulating read.

Mendelsund’s book is a visual feast for the eyes and the mind. While it may seem thick, this is actually a quick read as most pages only feature a paragraph of singular idea with a visual representation of the idea on the opposite page. While asking us to explore how we visualize a book, he simultaneously gives us a visual joy to accompany our thoughts or to further elaborate a point. While the major works used as examples for examination are To the Lighthouse, Anna Karenina, Ulysses and Madame Bovary, books from Tolkien to Infinite Jest are discussed and many examples and quotes from bright minds like Roland Barthes, William H. Gass, Franz Kafka, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Italo Calvino among others are utilized for the discussion. While there is nothing particularly new here that will shatter your mind or blow you away, and even many points that you are may disagree with, reading this book feels somehow Socratic in its method of making you realize things that have always gone on in your head, things you knew, but never realized you knew. It is quite enriching while also being extremely entertaining.

Characters are ciphers. And narratives are made richer by omission.

Mendelsund points out that many famous literary characters, such as Bovary, Ishmael and Anna K., are never given much physical description, yet over the course of the novel we visualize them each in our own way. ‘It is precisely what the text does not elucidate that becomes an invitation to our imaginations.’ In Anna Karenina, we are given her weight, her ‘thick lashes’, her ‘little downy mustache’, but Mendelsund asks ‘what does she look like?’. We all have a mental image of her, images with overlapping features, but Mendelsund claims that assuredly none of them are Tolstoy’s Anna. In one page he features a photograph of Keira Knightley as Anna and asserts that ‘this is a theft’ robbing us of our personal images of Anna. However, he states that nobody has a ‘clear’ image of a character, there is no photo-realistic image in our minds. Rather a blurred stand in, we may see hair here or an eye there (particularly in Bovary as her eye color changed throughout the novel), but never a full image. This goes with setting as well. He goes into detail and examples of how literature leaves us with a set of points to describe an object and that our mind fills the gaps in naturally. It is the magic of literature, the power of words and imagination working together to be both an active participant and an audience member when reading a novel. He also examines how when reading we receive information over time, going back and adapting our mental image to new information, and that we do not perceive words ‘ One - At - A - Time’ but instead ‘ we take in whole eyefuls of words. We gulp them like water.’ Mendelsund compares a page in a book to being like a chord in music; each individual idea is like a single note but it is through the combination of the various details that we hear the music of a character or scene. Though we only experience one note at a time, we ‘hear’ them as a chord. Also worth noting is his descriptions on how a character is not made by their descriptions, Mendelsund says, but by their actions. He brings Aristotle to his aid:
Aristotle claimed that Self is an action, and that we discover something’s nature through knowing it telos. A knife becomes a knife through cutting….

The distance between language and image is always the same’ - Italo Calvino

Another of the many aspects to the visual nature of literature covered by Mendelsund (in no way can I cover them all here) is the idea of the visual eye being like a film camera of sorts. Visualization is not like film, when an object is described the mind’s eye does not ‘zoom in’, but flashes an expression of the idea in the mind. Mendelsund questions how we perceive a scene in our mind through different P.O.V.’s and wonders how it is from first or third person (I myself tend to visualize all books in a third person perspective, ‘seeing’ the character even if it is told in first person). He also examines how we fill in details in our minds eye with images familiar to us, and asks how often we picture a character as having similar traits to someone we know in our own lives² or may transport the imagery of a Russian battlefield from War and Peace to the familiar setting of a childhood park.

What We See When We Read is a fun and visually impressive investigation into the abstract visualizations we all experience while reading. What I found particularly enjoyable was its insistence on reading as the most engaging of media forms since we as readers have our own agency and ‘As readers, we are the conductor and the orchestra, as well as the audience’. Through a vast assortment of great minds, Mendelsund has created a book that captures the essence of the visual stimulation of great novels and helps remind us of the joys that keep us coming back to books.


¹ The ‘inward eye’ is borrowed from William Wordsworth poem recalling yellow flowers seen by a lake:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood
They flash upon that inward eye
Whis is the bliss of solitude…

² While reading Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks at the same time as a co-worker, we one day realized we had both visualized the character Esther Little as looking like an older woman we worked with. We had many laughs about this for weeks to come.
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,221 followers
April 26, 2022
Am răsfoit de curînd volumul lui Peter Mendelsund (l-am împrumutat pentru o zi, se citește în trei ore) și m-am întrebat împreună cu el: ce vedem cînd citim?

E vorba de o carte bogat ilustrată. Autorul este „director artistic” la The Atlantic și e specialist, printre multe altele, în realizarea coperților / copertelor de carte (ambele forme ale cuvîntului sînt admise). Eseistul își începe ancheta chiar cu întrebarea despre Anna Karenina: ce culoare au ochii eroinei? Dar părul? Nici el nu știe prea mult. Iar textul nu ne ajută. Concluzia lui Mendelsund este că experiența lecturii nu e numaidecît una vizuală.

Cititorii caută sensuri, semnificații, urmăresc acțiunea și văd personajele în mișcare. Personajul nu este o entitate, ci un eveniment, o sumă de întîmplări. De aceea este vag, cețos, tulburat și, în cazul Annei Karenina, de-a dreptul tulburător.

În definitiv, după două lecturi (una în tinerețe și alta la deplina maturitate), ce știu despre înfățișarea Annei Karenina? M-am pus pe gîndit, timp de o jumătate de zi, mi-am încercat memoria și intuiția. În urma acestui examen (aproape medical-somatic, deși imaginar), mi-am dat seama că nu știu aproape nimic despre biata Anna.

Aaaaaa, știu cum a venit îmbrăcată la balul în care își dă seama, încă o dată, cît de îndrăgostită este de Vronski, fiindcă am scris, în Breviarul sceptic (Polirom, 2012), despre acest amănunt. Cine nu-şi aminteşte!?

Anna poartă o rochie de catifea neagră (nu violetă cum prezisese Kitty), cu o garnitură de dantele veneţiene. Rochia neagră se deschide într-un decolteu mare, binevoitor. Un şirag de mărgăritare în jurul gîtului, o ghirlandă de panseluţe în părul negru şi un bucheţel de panseluţe prins de cordon.

OK, rețin de aici că avea părul negru. Și mai deduc că avea ce arăta bărbaților (și invidioaselor) de vreme ce rochia ei prezenta un „decolteu mare”. Bănuiesc că nu toate femeile au curajul (și bucuria) de a vădi mulțimilor aristocrate un decolteu foarte îndrăzneț.

Deduc, în sfîrșit, că avea îndrăzneală și, cum să spun?, și un oarecare gust al sfidării. Nu-i păsa de ce zice lumea. Asta știm cu precizie din tot ceea ce i s-a întîmplat, deși nu prea are legătură cu înfățișarea ei...

P. S. Tot de la Mendelsund am aflat că urechile lui Alexei Alexandrovici Karenin au, în ochii soției sale, o geometrie variabilă. La început sînt mici, normale, dar cu vremea (pe măsură ce Anna îl detestă) se lungesc și se desprind aproape cu totul de cap...
May 16, 2020
Or, rather what we see when there isn't much to read in a book we're trying to read. Quite a paradoxy.

Illustrations, illustrations, some random words splattered across it all, more illustrations. Whoa?

DNF-ing this pic book. Bye-bye.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,112 reviews8,041 followers
October 25, 2015
What an utterly absorbing and fascinating read. Mendelsund, a renowned cover designer, looks into exactly what the title suggest, what we see (or think we see) when we read. He dissects everything from first lines and impressions to the performative nature of reading; the reader as a part of the text to how memory implants itself on the mind's eye while reading. It's packed with illustrations and provides an excellent starting point to further examine what we are doing exactly when we read words on a page. I think all readers should read this book, for the mere fact that they would find something resonant in the work.

I particularly was fond of the passage that said: "When we want to co-create, we read. We want to participate; and we want ownership. We would rather have sketches than verisimilitude--because the sketches, at least, are ours" (198). Or perhaps, "Books allow us certain freedoms--we are free to be mentally active when we read; we are full participants in the making (the imagining) of a narrative" (192). Or maybe finally, "If books were roads, some would be made for driving quickly--details are scant, and what details there are appear drab--but the velocity and torque of the narrative is exhilarating. Some books, if seen as roads, would be made for walking--the trajectory of the road mattering far less than the vistas these roads might afford. The best book for me: I drive through it quickly but am forced to stop on occasion, to pull over and marvel. These books are meant to be reread. (The first time through, I can tear along, as fast as possible, and then later, I'll enjoy a leisurely stroll--so that I can see what I've missed)" (96).

Go read it, and see for yourself (ha!).
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,040 followers
August 22, 2016
I somehow forgot to review this one despite reading it in preparation for my Reading May Experience course, and using some of the quotations and bits from it in reflection prompts.

This is a visual study on what we know about reading. This is a book I'd like to own and dip in and out of from time to time, a real pleasure. Most people who read will get something out of it.
“The openings of To the Lighthouse and Moby-Dick are confusing for the reader – we haven’t yet been given sufficient information to begin processing the narrative and its imagery.

But we are used to such confusion. All books open in doubt and dislocation.

When you first open a book, you enter a liminal space.” (60-61)
Sometimes Mendelsund muses on an idea and leaves it open for the reader to answer.
“We gulp words and phases when we read quickly, but we also may choose to savor some texts, and roll them on our tongues.

(Does the speed at which we read affect the vividness of our imagination?)” (96)
Oh hey I EVEN discussed this book on Episode 057 of the Reading Envy Podcast, and still completely forgot to post about it here.
Profile Image for Charles.
175 reviews
May 14, 2021
A fun book and a fast read, with an open and airy layout featuring loads of illustrations. Peter Mendelsund makes a number of points about the act of reading and how we tend to misinterpret our own ability to picture what words mean to convey. Not that there is any necessity for thoroughness, either on the writer’s or the reader’s part: forming a picture always involves connecting some dots and working with approximations. Mendelsund questions our very capacity of bringing things into focus, every step of the way, no matter what the amount of assistance.

When I reviewed Augustus by John Williams, earlier this year, I began by applauding the author’s decision not to latch onto every possible tedious detail about Ancient Rome, opting for a more general sense of time and place, instead. I feel rather vindicated, right now.

What We See When We Read pulls examples from a variety of classics to (literally) illustrate its points: Anna Karenina, Moby-Dick and To the Lighthouse often come up, just to name a few. I haven’t read all these titles. It’s okay not to have read them: intimate as it may be, your knowledge of these works will not tip the scales in your favor while reading Mendelsund’s graphic essay, it’s beside the point.

There are readers out there who are fascinated with books about books, I see it pop up regularly in various reviews and comments. They make for an ideal public for What We See When We Read. Thankfully, Mendelsund keeps things casual and dynamic and, for someone like me, with no specific badge of belonging on my lapel, this book just made for a perfect palate cleanser in the middle of my reading season.

The opposite of a dry read, for something that verges on armchair philosophy. Someone could easily make it through this title over the course of a single day.
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,000 reviews436 followers
November 5, 2020
This was an enjoyable read. A very unique book by an author who has a very unique job: being associate art director for the publishing house Alfred A. Knopf. It is ~419 pages long on the behavior or the process of reading. Thought-provoking. One thought that flitted across my mind about halfway through the book is how on earth all of us as humans are able to look at marks on a page, a whole page full of marks, and read them. Decode those marks into words. And yet if I were to open up a book in the German language, well it would be marks on a page to me.

Anyway that is what the writing gently nudged me into thinking. The book got me to think about all sorts of things….maybe because of the actual text I was reading, or maybe because that text made me think of something else which got me to daydreaming…even while I was still reading the book and halfway comprehending it because my attention was torn between what I was reading and my daydreaming. Got it? 🧐

One chapter was titled Abstractions. And the following was an exercise the author asked the reader to embark on and for whatever reason it delighted me. I just loved it. OK, here goes:

Do we visualize anything when we read? Of course we must visualize something…Not all reading is merely abstract, the interplay of theoretical notions. Some of our mental conduct seems to be pictorial.
Try this thought experiment.
1. Think of the capital letter D.
2. Now imagine it turning ninety degrees counterclockwise.
3. Now take it and mentally place it on top of the capital letter J.
Now…what is the weather like, in your mind?

And the next page showed what I was thinking of…the picture I had created from his instructions. A whole two pages of u_______s!!!

I said the book was ~419 pages. I read it in one sitting. You might say, “Yeesh, this sounds like an erudite book. There is no way you could get through that book in one sitting.”

Ah, but that was another nice aspect of the book. One page was a drawing by the author or at times there might have been a reproduction of a page of a book, or a picture of a book dustjacket, or an object (a pipe)…and on the facing page was some text, not many lines. I had started the book and was immersed and then took a look at what page I was on and it was in the 100s.

But yes, I tend to read on the fast side. And Peter Mendelsund opined about that. Some people read slowly and some will read faster. Some people will go back to something they did not understand. Others will continue on, figuring that the rest of the page or the next page will enlighten them on whatever they did not previously understand.

A Goodreads friend wrote a wonderful review of this book and I wrote him back and said “Great review, but I probably would not understand it, although I understood what you said in your review.” (I was afraid it was too erudite for me and it would be over my head.) But he said that he thought there was a good chance I would understand it. And he was right. I can’t recite chapter and verse, but I enjoyed it and got a lot out of it.

One last thing. One of the key points of the book (but there were many) is that who the reader is counts for a lot when it comes to interpreting a book (what is the book about?). When I read a book, I come with 65 years of history. A very particular history. Unique—just me. When you read that same book you come with your own history. So my reading experience will be different than yours. Guaranteed. What’s more, I might read a book now and then read a book 20 years later and my interpretation might be markedly different. Anyway, what I am trying to say is that this website would be a whole lot more boring if my review of this book was a dead-on match with your review of the book. Unless we are reviewing a primer on “This is Spot the Dog) it is guaranteed the reviews will be different. And a GR friend made a comment that her reviews had her DNA written all over it (or words to that effect). You might learn a little something about me in my reviews and vice versa.

• Great review: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/01/bo...
• Very thoughtful & erudite review. https://notesofoak.com/book-review/wh...

Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
July 5, 2021
Peter Mendelsund is an associate art director at Alfred A. Knopf (book publishers) and a former classical pianist. He is best known now in the book world, I am told, for his book/cover designs. The cover design for this book is solid black, (not that inviting, Peter!) with the title, author, and a reflective (mirror) key hole; in other words, you open the book and you see yourself. I read this because several of my Goodreads friends had recommended it, and because--though I have read a lot of theories of reading--it was written by someone outside the field, someone who now lives in a more visual world and uses these metaphors to reflect on what we see when we read.

The point of the book is in that self-reflective key: We (at least half) co-create the works of fiction that we read. When we read we read ourselves to some extent, as we bring our experience and what we know of the world to the texts we read. Using examples from many classic texts I love such as Anna Karenina, Bleak House, Crime and Punishment, To the Light House, and many others, Mendelsund helps us realize that great writers don't often give us very detailed descriptions of, say, even central characters of their books, though those of us who are great and wide readers nevertheless have very detailed memories of characters, such as of Anna Karenina. Where do those images come from? Our minds, basically. Our memories are tied to our imaginations.

Tolstoy doesn't give us much to go on in envisioning his heroine, Anna Karenina, and yet we can see her pretty clearly in our minds. And yet my Anna is not your Anna. We each create her in part out of what we are given by the author, but more so out of our own experience and imagination. Which is part of the problem when films are made of our favorite books. Robert Redford as The Great Gatsby??! Heaven forbid! Or Leo DiCaprio!? 'Zounds! And yet we who have seen the films only know Harry Potter as Daniel Radcliffe. Without the film versions, though, our perceptions of characters vary.

I associate Mendelsund's theory with subjective criticism (David Bleich) or reader-response theory (Louise Rosenblatt). There is no one objective interpretation of any text. We bring to books our own experience, which is maybe why some books are better read later in life, such as King Lear. How can we understand him at 17?

I know from reading theorist Pat Enciso that adept readers are able to draw or otherwise visually represent very elaborate depictions of scenes that they are reading, whereas struggling readers, when asked what they see when they read, say very little, and need visual strategies (shared by reading teachers) for increasing their powers of imagining what they read. Former sixth grade English teacher Jeff Wilhelm's You Gotta Be the Book, based on his research on reading comprehension with his own students, convincingly reveals the truth of what Enciso asserts.

This book sounds like a dense theoretical treatise, but thanks to whimsical book designer Mendelsund, all 422 pages can be read in one sitting. Lots of pages with images, lots of white space (for you to co-create your own conversation with Mendelsund and others!), sometimes quotes, sometimes drawings (such as by Kurt Vonnegut's and Laurence Sterne's maps of the plots of their books), some drawings by authors of their characters (Dostoevsky, of Raskolnikov). It's whimsical, provocative, inviting us to consider our own reading experiences. Mendelsund's acknowledgements make it clear this book developed through conversations with many people, and I think this would be a good book for a book club (or class) to use to reflect on what reading is for them.
September 23, 2014
I must begin this review by stating my prejudice of supreme enjoyment when reading about reading. I find this enterprise endlessly fascinating. The more I examine it the more there seems to examine.

Along with the purity of sheer enjoyment there was nothing which shattered my world, nor though was it a dry review of what I already knew. By including drawings, pieces of conceptual art-he is best known for designing book covers for well known works-he conjured from his imagination pictorials which most of the time exemplified the essence of the point he was making.

In what We See When We Read, Peter Mendesund stressed using our readerly imagination. He stressed our being readerly. The act of reading is one where we participate. Rather than a passive perception rendered unto us we are inside the book with our own images, memories experiences. Our reading of the text is a one time event on the planet where our mind joins in some way, possibly transcendent, possibly spiritual, the author's. Which part of an author's mind is involved is not called forth and maybe cannot be. There is some non-evidentiary evidence sheltering in the self contented world of non-measurement involving this mystical union. The cloying hands of theories need not enter. The writer's responsibility is to relate just enough detail versus description to invite the reader to fill in the precious gaps, becoming part of the narrative. Reports do not work, works of art do.

Yet nothing new but the articulate writing, the examples-especially from Wolfe's, To The Lighthouse- some angular scopings offering refreshing hues of colored light on what memory left as drab. I felt like a kid. I couldn't wait to start reading a new book and try some of these new-old things or at least be more aware.

A setback was clearly that his points were his own specific style of reading out of countless variations and varieties.Too often he used, "We", and made universal proclamations that this is how we all should read. I was having such a good time I was able to overlook it. There are probably many who wouldn't. Understandable. Finding myself in a rare moment of forgiveness overriding crankiness I found it fascinating to be inside of how another person reads, enjoying both the overlaps as well as the differences. How many times have I talked with another about the act of reading, how they participate, experience versus myself who forgets too quickly and easily, battles to visually perceive the words, images? Only my wife who cannot understand that I don't automatically see the images from the words read. The point I'm laboring to get to is that by viewing how an articulate an open other reads helped me to identify my own style. The lines became crisper. I became more accepting, while still entertaining a further emphasis or new ideas to swim about my mind as a reader.

To summarize: Duh, I never really thought about it before. Even while reading the book I feared I would become hyper alert, increasing self conscious and my internal readerly computer might well crash. It didn't and hasn't.

If anyone has gotten this far in this lengthy review I want to put out there that this is what I am most curious about when it comes to GR readers. I would love to see a thread that goes on and on about how each of us may read differently.


Profile Image for Jafar.
728 reviews232 followers
August 25, 2014
I started off liking this book. I thought Mendelsund was on to something interesting and original. But the more I read, the more I felt I was reading something by a postmodernist writer. You know the type. They sound high and mighty, but in the end it's impossible to tell what their point is, assuming they have a point.

Mendelsund makes a great deal of how we imagine the characters of a novel look like. Well, I, for one, make no attempt to imagine how Anna Karenina looks like when I read the novel. What interests me is the ideas and dialogs and thoughts and actions and feelings of the characters. Whether Anna Karenina looks like Keira Knightly or not is besides the point. Same with locations. I find it irritating when a tiresome writer spends pages upon pages just describing how a room looks like.
Profile Image for Chris.
Author 35 books11.2k followers
September 27, 2018
This book fascinated me and intrigued me -- and it will change the way I write. The images -- and the interpretation of the images -- taught me so much. Absolutely terrific and clever and, yes, a lot of fun.
Profile Image for Barbara K..
378 reviews67 followers
January 9, 2021
You know how the sum is more than the whole of the parts? That is this book.

A number of the ideas in this unique volume, where text frequently takes up little space on a page and graphic representations of Mendelsund's ideas abound, were already familiar to me on a scientific level.

But the magic of this book is the way it rises above lab-based observations about how our brains and senses work, in favor of exploring the delicious and highly personal experience of reading a book . A focus that is simultaneously narrow and broad.

While reading this particular book I had frequent thoughts about sections I might want to comment on in a review, but in retrospect I realize that would just be wrong. This is not a book to be parsed out. It needs to be appreciated as a whole.

These observations, appearing near the end of the book, provide a glimpse of Mendelsund's overall theme:

"Authors are curators of experience. They filter out the world's noise, and out of that noise they make the purest signal they can-out of disorder they create narrative. They administer this narrative in the form of a book, and preside, in some ineffable way, over the reading experience. Yet no matter how pure the data set authors provide to readers-no matter how diligently prefiltered and tightly reconstructed-readers' brains will continue in their prescribed assignment: to analyze, screen and sort."

How pleasant to be able to add another book to my "to re-read" shelf this early in the year. I can't recommend it highly enough to anyone with an interest in the relationship between author and reader. And words on a page.

Profile Image for Teresa.
1,492 reviews
April 27, 2017
Com gráficos, fotografias, desenhos e um mínimo de texto, Mendelsund - utilizando exemplos de alguns romances clássicos - elabora um exercício muito divertido sobre o acto de leitura; como cada leitor "vê" as personagens, os lugares...

"Não faça isso, por favor não o faça! O inseto não pode ser representado. Não pode sequer ser mostrado ao longe."
Esta é a mensagem enviada por Kafka ao editor de Metamorfose, talvez com o objetivo de proteger os atos imaginativos dos seus leitores.

Agora percebi bem porque detesto livros com capa da versão cinematográfica e porque nunca gosto de um livro de que já vi o filme: porque me rouba um dos prazeres fundamentais de ler: Imaginar.
Profile Image for David.
Author 26 books166 followers
August 29, 2014
Peter Mendelsund’s “What We See When We Read” might almost be useful to those just coming to the idea of immersive, experiential reading, analytical reading, especially non-fiction, does not figure into this work, but for those who’ve been following, or studying, the phenomenon of non-critical reading this will be a tedious read.

The graphics are excellent, but they are disguising the fact you are reading a very, very short book—only 21k. The problem with this is that what you are getting is less a book and more a personal essay. There is, as well, very little critical thinking in the work [it is, after all, a personal essay] and no endnotes. For most this will not be a problem, but for any who wish to explore the ideas raised in this book the lack of references will seriously hamper their pursuit.

The lack of endnotes and bibliography makes this work not the best entry position for a book exploring how most people read fiction [novels, short stories, poetry, and drama].

Above and beyond all of this is the fact that although the ‘essay’ is elegant, graceful, and aesthetically pleasing it is not, in the slightest, perceptive and lacks any deep thought on the part of the author.

In the end, it is impossible to recommend this book for anyone but the most superficial of readers.

2 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Nelson Zagalo.
Author 9 books312 followers
June 30, 2018
"O Que Vemos Quando Lemos" (2014) é um livro interessante mas que tem de ser lido com muito espírito crítico, algo que não me parece ao alcance dos alunos do 9º ano, a quem o livro é recomendado em Portugal. A razão não se reduz apenas à falta de suporte científico para o que se vai debitando, mas agudiza-se com a forma desprezível como olha para essa cientificidade, assumindo a perspectiva do autor como perspectiva de verdade. Ou seja, afirmando o meramente anedótico ("eu acho que é assim", ou "eu vejo assim") como prova de realidade igual para todos. O melhor do livro é mesmo o facto de ser ler em pouco mais de duas horas, por isso não se perde demasiado com a sua leitura.

Alguns exemplos
p.26: "Alguns leitores juram que conseguem imaginar os personagens perfeitamente, mas apenas enquanto estão a ler. Eu duvido disso."

Bem, isto é o mesmo que dizer que Nabokov, entre muitos outros sinestesistas, não viam cores ou ouviam sons quando liam letras, palavras ou frases. Ou seja, o autor diz simplesmente: "se eu não vejo, os outros também não vêem."

P.39: “É provável que ouçam a linha (no ouvido da mente) antes de imaginar o personagem. Eu posso ouvir as palavras de Ishmael com mais clareza do que consigo ver o seu rosto. (A audição requer processos neurológicos diferentes da visão, ou cheiro. E eu sugeriria que nós ouvimos mais do que vemos enquanto lemos.)”

Mais uma. Simplesmente porque o autor tem a impressão de ouvir melhor, nada reportando sobre essa diferença, até porque o livro é sobre apenas o que vê, ou melhor sobre o que imagina que deveria ver, esquecendo completamente toda a restante componente sensorial que a experiência de leitura produz no leitor, já avança com afirmações a que liga termos científicos ("processos neurológicos") sem qualquer suporte. Isto faz o livro descer ao nível de texto de opinião de jornal regional.

Frases e problemas como estes são mais do que muitos, e não vale a pena sequer tentar aqui elencar os mesmos. Cada um de nós tem as suas teorias próprias sobre o que acontece dentro de si quando lê, ouve, vê um filme, ou passa por um evento real complexo, mas isso não faz de nós especialistas em linguagem ou neuropsicologia. Mendelsund limita-se a usar do conhecimento disciplinar em Design que possui, diga-se meramente aplicado, para tentar responder ao que acontece dentro das nossas mentes, o que não é muito diferente de alguém tentar retirar uma rolha de cortiça de uma garrafa de vinho com um abre-latas ou abre-cápsulas. Repare-se como invariavelmente Mendelsund vai saltitando entre tópicos altamente complexos e díspares como: memória; cognição; emoção; atenção; imaginação; linguagem; comunicação; a relação entre imagens mentais e imagens físicas; os sons e os cheiros; os filmes, os videojogos e os livros; a narração, a dramatização e a descrição; etc.

O livro parece mais um conjunto de ideias, que não sendo desinteressantes, não vão além da superfície do que se discute. Como se o autor tivesse lido alguns livros sobre o tema, e quisesse converter em texto algumas das ideias que o têm assombrado. E se não tenho nada contra a que cada um o possa fazer, já tenho contra quando o texto tende a tentar passar-se por Estudo ou Investigação, com gráficos supostamente científicos (ver imagem abaixo) ou sendo referido como tal em elogios. Porque nada do que nos diz Mendelsund é novo, ou não foi discutido imensamente, mas mais importante do que isso, não foi verdadeiramente investigado, nomeadamente nas últimas duas décadas com as neurociências e na linguística. Não faltam referências de estudos e trabalhos sobre o tema, e quantos cita ou refere Mendelsund, zero. As únicas referências que Mendelsund vai fazendo para além dos clássicos da literatura, são meia dúzia de filósofos. E no final rotula tudo como um estudo fenomenológico, e já está. Pois não está, isto é nada. E menos ainda é dar isto a ler às crianças sem as colocar de sobre-aviso, sobre o facto disto não ser ciência, disto não passar de uma conversa de café interessante. Mais preocupante ainda quando a editoria vai buscar epítetos de um conjunto de amigos do autor e coloca na contra-capa atribuindo uma relevância muito além daquela que o texto merece.

O resultado do suposto estudo de Mendelsund em que este pretende comparar parâmetros como agência e vivacidade das imagens criadas a partir de experiências como: sonho, alucinação, perceção real e imaginação da leitura. Colo-as aqui, apenas para chamar a atenção que estas não possuem qualquer validade.

Para quem realmente quiser saber o que se passa nas nossas mentes quando lemos, deixo aqui algumas leituras, não que existam certezas, mas exatamente por isso é que não podemos simplesmente brincar com ideias como se tudo valesse o mesmo, como se meras opiniões fossem tão relevantes como a ciência. Deixo apenas alguns livros de divulgação científica, por ordem de acessibilidade e relevância para o tema, não fazendo sequer menção às centenas de artigos científicos sobre o tema:

Bergen, B. K. (2012). Louder than words: The new science of how the mind makes meaning. Basic Books (AZ).

Damasio, A. R. (1994). Descartes’ error: Emotion, rationality and the human brain.

Pinker, Steven (1994). The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. Perennial.

Damasio, A. R. (2018). The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures. Pantheon.

Eco, U. (1989). Opera aperta. Harvard University Press.

Ahlsén, Elisabeth (2006). Introduction to Neurolinguistics. John Benjamins Publishing Company

Chomsky, Noam (2000). The Architecture of Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (2008). Metaphors we live by. University of Chicago press.

Bordwell, D. (1991). Making meaning: Inference and rhetoric in the interpretation of cinema. Harvard University Press.

Publicado no VI: https://virtual-illusion.blogspot.com...
Profile Image for João Carlos.
646 reviews271 followers
January 29, 2018
Peter Mendelsund é director de arte da Alfred A. Knopf, uma das mais conceituadas editoras norte-americanas, e um premiado desenhador de capas de livros, produzindo «as capas de livros mais icónicas e imediatamente reconhecíveis da ficção contemporânea» - (http://covers.petermendelsund.com/).
”O Que Vemos Quando Lemos” tem textos e ilustrações – numa obra literária que discorre sobre literatura e sobre as imagens. Sendo designer Peter Mendelsund reflecte sobre o processo de imaginar coisas a partir de uma palavra, uma frase ou um texto literário.
”A história da leitura é uma história recordada. Quando lemos, estamos imersos. E, quanto mais imersos estamos, menos capacidade temos, no momento, de voltar a atenção das nossas mentes analíticas para a experiência em que estamos absorvidos. Deste modo, na verdade, quando discutimos a sensação de ler, é da memória de termos lido que estamos a falar.*
E esta memória da leitura é uma memória falsa.
(*William James)”
(Pág. 9)

Ficará na minha memória a imagem de ”Anna Karénina, representada por um programa de reconhecimento facial da polícia, a partir das descrições no texto de Tolstoi. (Sempre imaginei o cabelo dela mais encaracolado, mais escuro…)”. (Pág. 18)
A investigação de Peter Mendelsund é provocativa e incomum sobre como O que vemos quando lemos? (Além de palavras numa página.) O que imaginamos nas nossas mentes?” - neste enquadramento há a capacidade de o leitor imaginar no sentido de criar uma imagem ou de várias imagens do que acabou de ler. Todas as afirmações estão associadas a uma imagem ou a uma ilustração. Nessa conjugação ou nessa ligação – o que nem sempre aconteceu no meu caso particular – a prosa/texto faz mais sentido quando agregada às imagens – encorajando e estimulando o leitor nessa ponderação ou nessa contemplação. A questão da concentração ou da imersão na leitura é apenas considerada integral quando conseguimos efectivamente elaborar imagens do que nos é narrado ou relatado.
Os exemplos propostos por Peter Mendelsund de inúmeras obras literárias e de determinados autores facilitam – nalguns casos, sobretudo, quando os conhecemos ou quando já as lemos – essa experiência como leitor.
Estão incluindos: ”Rumo ao Farol” - Virginia Woolf, ”Anna Karénina” - Lev Tolstoi, ”O Som e a Fúria” - William Faulkner, ”Madame Bovary” - Gustave Flaubert, ”Ulisses” - James Joyce e muitas outras obras literários e autores.
”O Que Vemos Quando Lemos” é um livro/objecto indispensável para “figurar” na estante de qualquer ávido leitor.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
325 reviews8 followers
September 15, 2014
Parts were really thought-provoking, but my quibble with this book is simply that I don't read the way the author reads. If there is a chair in the corner that the author doesn't describe, I don't wonder what color or style the chair is. If a scene takes place in a city I've never seen and the city isn't described, I don't graft Philadelphia on top of it. So the "WE see ..." and "WE feel..." statements don't ring true for me, and that colored my impression of the book. Maybe the title should have been "What Graphic Artists See When We Read."

If you're looking for studies, research and citations, you won't find them here. This is a personal essay interspersed with illustrations, graphics, and word art. If you took out all of that, you'd have a very tiny book.

I received this in my Book Riot Quarterly box and I'm glad it was an actual copy because I think this would be a bear to read in my traditional Nook ereader.
Profile Image for Paul Secor.
546 reviews46 followers
March 19, 2022
I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened this book. The author is a book jacket designer, so perhaps it might include book covers? Perhaps illustrations from various books? As I say, I wasn't sure.
When I began reading, I was initially engaged because it turned out to be a visual and written essay on -as the title says, what we see when we read.
There were some insightful moments early on:
"All books open to doubt and dislocation."
"When we read, we take in whole eyelids of words. We gulp them like water."

And one I was particularly taken with: "The eye saccades around the page." This last is presented visually, in a very witty manner.
(I confess that I was unfamiliar with the word, saccades, and thought that the author was making a verbal and visual pun on "cascades". Whether he was or not, it worked for me.

The problem I had with this book was that I felt that the author made most of his points early on and, for me at least, the last three fourths of the book were repetitive and redundant.
And I was annoyed by the author's constant overuse of "we" and its associates, "our" and "us". Speak for yourself, Mr. Mendelsund. I'm capable of speaking for myself. I should have realized what I was getting into when I read the title of the book.

As I say, there are some clever visuals and some early fine moments in this book.
In the end, I'm happy that the copy I read was a library book, so I didn't buy it. And I'm happy that it was a quick read, so I didn't spend too much time reading it.

A side note: My library copy contained something interesting when I opened it - a book plate which read, "This book was adopted by _ _"
I went to the website of the library it came from and they have a program for folks to pay a fee and adopt a book, whether one that the library already owns or one they wish to purchase for the library. Their name is then printed on a book plate and placed in the book they've adopted. (I assume that printing the name is optional and may be omitted.) It seems like a good method for libraries to raise funds.
Profile Image for Lark Benobi.
Author 1 book1,722 followers
December 4, 2018
A whimsical graphic journey that invites us to ask ourselves: Just what is going on in our heads when we read fiction? Do we really SEE Anna Karenina? Why does it seem boring and unnecessary when writers try to write detailed descriptions of their characters—hair, eyes, skin, bearing—and why do singular markers, like slender hands, or a certain way of holding the chin, work better? How do books with illustrations change how we see the characters? What do we give up when we let an actor in a movie based on the book invade our literary imagination and become the character we see in our heads the next time we read the book?

Mendelsund’s book is a visual experience, with language chosen as much for its graphic effect as its semantic meaning. And that approach to language is completely appropriate for his subject. His arguments and observations of the visual impressions we make as we read are intriguing and delightful, and often they are deep and surprising, too.

Sometimes as I experienced this book I reflected on the near-constant use of the word “we” in the text. It seemed a given to Mendelsund that “We” all read more or less the same way.

But do “We” really all read the same way? What if “I” as an individual reader don’t experience visual cues from reading the same way as the “We” of this text does? What would Temple Grandin think of Mendelsund’s assumptions about how “We” visualize what we read? There were definitely some exploratory meanders in this book that spoke to me less than others, when, instead of thinking “huh, he’s right!” I thought “no I don’t think that’s the way it is for me.”

But exploratory questions like these are invited by Mendelsund, not proscribed by him. This isn’t a thesis, it’s a journey, and a very fun journey at that, one that is very likely to enrich the way I read.
Profile Image for Angy - Books Lover .
166 reviews17 followers
November 26, 2020
Che cosa vediamo quando leggiamo (?)
Libro direi nuova uscita del 2020 ma già con diverse recensioni, abbastanza positive.

Primo libro di questo genere che leggo, con molte illustrazioni; anzi direi che più della metà sono illustrazioni (ben fatte).

Sono 400 pagine che scorrono come una cascata. Si legge in meno di due ore e si è invogliati ad andare avanti.

Cosa non mi convinto però: mi aspettavo che entrasse più nel dettaglio del perché "vediamo" quel che vediamo mentre leggiamo. Ho trovato invece (solo) conferme di ciò che già sapevo o intuivo.

Solo per il contenuto testuale darei 2 stelle ma la struttura e le illustrazioni meriterebbero 4 stelle e mezzo quindi in media reputo che 3 stelle sono meritate.

Una frase che mi è piaciuta molto è stata "Mentre leggiamo, sogniamo ad occhi aperti".

Libro non adatto ad ebook, perderebbe moltissimo.
Profile Image for Libby.
575 reviews157 followers
February 21, 2018
Peter Mendelsund is the author of this delightful little book, ‘What We See When We Read.’ He has designed many book covers and he’s an avid reader. He delves into the mysteries of how our imaginations create the world of the book we are reading. I’ve mostly thought of a book as a movie unwinding before me visually but of course it’s so much more than that. Because in the movie we don’t often have access to the characters thoughts like we do in books. And of course most movies last only a couple of hours and a book depending on how quick a reader you are can take much longer. But Mendelsund puts forward the thought that our minds assimilate pictures from our memories that accommodate the book we’re reading. Food for thought. I don’t know if I completely agree. There are some books I read that I have nothing in my memory banks to draw upon for some descriptions. Like Borne by Jeff VanderMeer. Where in my memories would I have anything upon which to establish a visual image of the amorphous blob of Borne? I personally think the mind is capable of grand leaps of imagination provoked by reading. But I could be wrong!

Mendelsund is very persuasive and I love much of what he has written. For example, “In music, notes and chords define ideas, but so do rests...... Chatacters are ciphers. And narratives are made richer by omission.” This feels just right. With extreme ease, we, as readers, can slip into the skins of many characters. The more we imagine them to be like us, the easier it is. How many times have I had to put a book down just to draw in a breathe of awe at the sparseness of wording that elucidates a vivid picture?

Mendelsund also writes, “When we read, we take in whole eyefuls of words. We gulp them like water.” This is my favorite metaphor because I frequently feel thirsty for a book and when I’ve enjoyed some good reading time, I’m sated.

There is so much to explore in ‘What We See When We Read.’ Reading it feels like the start of an exploration. It also feels like the turning of a key.
Profile Image for Ana | The Phoenix Flight.
231 reviews153 followers
November 6, 2019
Sugestão de leitura aqui: https://youtu.be/hoUnw1qY9Cs

Há livros que se tornam interessantes pela história que portam, ou pelas personagens. Este é interessante porque nos leva a olhar para a forma como criamos essas representações e se as criamos realmente. Ler é uma ilusão.
Profile Image for Dawn Stowell.
210 reviews10 followers
December 19, 2021
After my university course, I took in the year 2000, "An Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism," my love of reading was completely destroyed by overanalysis and the formal application of the process of literary deconstruction that permeated and depleted my entire belief system. My worldview became incredibly jaded and it could not have been more bitter. I simply could no longer read fiction, and I could not believe in anything else either as my willing suspension of disbelief was much, much too greatly damaged. It took years to rediscover, rebuild and recover from this both psychic and intellectual injury. It truly nearly utterly destroyed me.

This is a book that offers full and complete redemption for that soul-rending experience. It is a brilliant, fascinating love affair with the visual that explores the act of reading. It takes abstract thoughts about reading and draws them down to the earth, makes love to meaning itself and gently writes them upon the minds of the receptive. This book solidifies the belief that all authors are curators of experience. It elicits an even deeper feeling of reverence than what was revealed to me previously. The like of which I experienced when I read The Guttenberg Elegies with its description of reading as "a resonance of deep time"( paraphrased) It takes the reader into this same space of "a resonance of deep time," and maps the constellations while still eluding assigning them mythological names or contemporary labels. The author keeps it real.

"the level of detail determines not what a person sees as they read, rather it informs their experience - their reading experience." (paraphrase)

"The feeling of reading in general (is of being)- in many many places at once.”

"We colonize books with our familiars and we exile, repatriate the characters to lands that we are more acquainted with."

"words potentiate meaning."

My summary, based on my understanding of Mendelsunds closing argument, is that:

"we reduce. And it is not without reverence that we reduce. This is how we apprehend our world. This is what humans do.”

---> is that all perception is the result of a blurring of the senses together with a melding of thoughts. These by the necessity of needing to stream and simplify this gestalt ocean of data become outlines, types, categories that are, at best, blurred versions of our perceived realities. And there is a huge, huge difference between deconstruction and reduction that I never knew existed until now. This book exalts (and does not deconstruct) the meaning of 'reduction,' and it also defines the glory to be found in our human attunement to this process of reduction that lovingly blurs our differences.

Perhaps then the unworded proposition is that reading is the act of seeing a bit better through this blur?

I think I might be in love with this book. Can you tell? Or perhaps it's awe, true awe. This is the rare phenomenon of being awestruck by beauty and magnificence combined.
Profile Image for Michael.
836 reviews613 followers
December 21, 2016
When reading Moby Dick, does Ishmael look like Richard Basehart? How about Anna Karenina? Please don’t tell me she looked like Keira Knightley. What We See When We Read takes a look at the activity of reading with such depth and insight. Looking at not only the way our brain fills in the images but also what the author is trying to say. Take for example Karenin in Anna Karenina; his ears are described a few times within the novel but they get bigger. The size of his ears is an artistic simulacrum that changes as Anna Karenina’s feelings toward him change.

Peter Mendelsund is Knopf’s Associate Art Director and has been responsible for some of their most iconic book covers. Just looking at his book cover designs I get the sense that he loves reading and the artistic side of literature. His book covers really capture a feeling; they stand out and often work well with the written word inside. He is major is in Philosophy and Literature and the two work well together in looking at the idea of reading and how our minds interpret the written word.

This is very much like Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, it explores the idea of reading in different ways and explores different concepts. We all read slightly different and Mendelsund is able to go into different methods. A stand out for me is the way Vladimir Nabokov read Kafka’s Metamorphosis; there is an image of his copy of the book and it looks like he edits and rewrites the book to make it his own. It is an interesting way to get involve with the written word.

What We See When We Read is a combination of written words and images, which allows Mendelsund to illustrate his point and give the reader a better understanding of the feelings. A big bonus is the fact that he references other books, which gives me a huge TBR pile of books that explore this idea further in different ways. I love books about books so I am pleased to have a reading list.

I have to say What We See When We Read is a must for all book lovers. This book will be a joy to read and will look good on the shelf. I own the new Vintage edition, which is a paperback but it also has French flaps so it looks nice. I like how he went for a simple cover design; it stands out and works well with this book. I know this book is rising in popularity and I hope more people get a chance to read this one as soon as possible.

This review originally appeared on my blog: http://literary-exploration.com/2014/...
Profile Image for Biblio Curious.
233 reviews8,282 followers
July 18, 2018
This book is the pinnacle of 'show don't tell.' It's written & illustrated by a highly regarded book cover designer. 2 of his designs that I'm fascinated by are The Kafka Covers, you know which ones. They have the creepy eyes on them. And the James Joyce books, the minimalist covers with the corrections as part of the design.

Mendelsund designed a book that shows us what we see, when we read. It's so literal the pages of Dickens' opening lines for Bleak House drift into London's Fog. We can easily read the 1st page of Joyce's Ulysses until the fonts collapse into our consciousness and all we see on the page are a blur of tiny text shrinking then crashing into itself.

Stuffed between these elaborately designed typography are almost academic essays. He gives more information than a newbie can handle so we can take a breather and read the pictures he creates for us. It's a book to return to again and again. And one to experience for a lifetime.

If you're interested in understanding the experience of reading, this could be a great introductory book for the topic. It's more accessible than a traditional textbook. And more enjoyable than an online lecture.

I'm curious how high schoolers would perceive this book? Teens today are raised with cell phones and don't know a world without the internet. So their opinions on this book would be so unique compared to us dinosaurs who were raised with card catalogues.

I'll certainly link a blog post here with some recommendations of phenomenology books he brings up in this one (as footnotes of course).

My Review:
What We See When We Read
Images We Can Read
Profile Image for Cheryl .
9,048 reviews391 followers
September 15, 2018
Patronizing/ insulting. Almost nothing objective, much less scientific. Lots of material collected from others, for example Nabokov on Dickens... did we really need Mendelsund's take layered on top of that? So much of this stuff, like mapping the course of the characters' fortunes, is taught to schoolchildren.

Most of the rest is self-indulgent sophomoric philosophizing. The kind of stuff done in the common room of the dormitory in the middle of the night, when participants are high on stress, freedom, and lack of sleep.

Lots of use of the word "we." Either the author doesn't realize that other readers may not have the same experiences that he does, or it's a royal we. No matter which, it's annoying.

Now, if he'd actually had another BS artist contributing half of the book (well, doubling the length of the book I should say because this is shamefully short even if one studies the pictures closely and rereads every topic sentence and googles every unfamiliar reference), one who had a different perspective, and we were reading as if spectators at that dormitory competition between two wannabe intellectuals, the book might have been worth the afternoon that I spent trying to appreciate it.

But he didn't.
And it wasn't.

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