The Birth of the Reader

[…] the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.

There was a recent tag on Facebook (whatever happened to those wonderful tags on blogs?) about authors who have influenced you. Multiple people tagged me, and I’d like to say that I was forced to do the tag – reluctantly. I have done a few tags on my blog, and I must say – I have enjoyed most of them. I can’t say the same for this one.


Having said that, I am not cursing whoever started the tag. It was done in the spirit of social Facebooking. We all love being a part of a social movement, while being stationary at our desks. There is some futile fun in that, I confess.

The problem with ill-defined tags is that they coerce you into finishing them.

I have been influenced by everything that I have read – and given the times that we live in – influenced by everything that is published – beyond words – audio, video and imagery. I have been influenced with a significant body of work; I doubt, however, if I have been influenced by an author. The one work that has influenced this thinking had this to say:

The explanation of a work is always sought in the man or woman who produced it, as if it were always in the end, through the more or less transparent allegory of the fiction, the voice of a single person, the author “confiding” in us.

I have worked with a group of people who may never be able to articulate this philosophy, but adhere to it as if their life depends on it. No one adds the signature.

I have been further been blessed that I live with my artist friend, who helps me cement this thinking with her ever-growing work – always challenging me to seek an artist in a work. The signature of an artist, I have called it once. Society almost demands the definition of an artwork that is defined by the artist’s profile. My primary personal influences, for example have been the Panchtantra and Hitopadesh. Let’s violate the primary premise of this post, and quote Roland Barthesfor the third time:

Thus is revealed the total existence of writing: a text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation, but there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader, not, as was hitherto said, the author.

For a person who reads many books used to read many books and is potentially dyslexic, It has been a difficult journey for me to remember authors. Where some body of work has left a lasting remark, I have usually remembered the body of work, rather than the author. I will never be able to quote it verbatim, but I will never forget the message. It is usually the same with music. I remember songs – I can never identify the composer, sometimes not even the singer. This means that I have survived numerous guilt-trips of you-love-this-song-but-you-don’t-know-the-singer-or-the-music-director? kind of accusations. I have persevered many such exclamations, often with difficulty. It took me some time to realise that I am not a Fact-roid. It has taken me a bit longer to come to terms with that. I haven’t crossed page 16 of any book by Umberto Eco. Gabriel Garcia Marquez has been endured with no avail. I have finished four Dan Brown books in less than four days (There was a discount offer from Tesco, so I bought all four). Applied Discrete Structures For Computer Science, believe it or not, is my favourite book.

Two, otherwise innocent, comments on the Facebook tag triggered this post. My list appealed to a few and a few others had questions about a few authors that did not make the list.

Scroll back to the top. and then come back here.

Are we who we are because what we read or because of who we read?


6 thoughts on “The Birth of the Reader

  1. Nice read and for once I delurk to comment~
    I remember your distaste for tags and am glad to see you do the tag as well as blog a response!
    Eco echoes within but Marquez, ummm, I better keep quiet. There are book that my daughter has banned from reading (hows that for parent control?) such as Jodi Picoult which I may not enjoy at a rational level but gets me all senti and emoshunal and reading back to back. Then again there are “difficult” books I have sailed thru with ease, either enjoying them or diss-ing them and relatively easy and popular reads which I can’t make any headway with (case in point Henry Miller/ Anais Nin stuff). Most of the authors who influence me are those who are old friends in that I have read, re-read and re-re-read them zillion times – thats how I can remember them enough, thru my dyslexia!

    PS: As ever, its a pleasure to comment on Gaizabonts with the mandatory appreciation and the token quibble. Please could you make it stationary and not ‘stationery’? Thanks


    • Ah! Welcome back, in a way, then!

      My notion about tags is misunderstood, methinks. I don’t like tags that are frivolous. I have been the generator a few tags myself – a long time ago.

      This post really came about when a comment said something like – ooh – I need to catch up with your authors. When it came from a person who reads at least 10 times more than I do, I was a bit agahst, so to say.

      Further, folks often miss that what influences them is the content not the writer – as such.

      That stationery moment was an aargh!! moment for me. Thank ye! 🙂


  2. Look at the negative space for a bit. Why is it that we dislike people more than the work?

    Mostly it goes like: “I don’t get Ray” not “I did not enjoy ‘Shatranj ke Khiladi'”. I’ve noticed this with lots of people I’ve had a chat with. Even I do this most of the time!

    So, does a twisted, converse logic somehow justify a ‘favorite artist list’ versus a ‘favorite artwork list’?

    I am never sure, if our dissing the artist more than the art, is the result of years of media conditioning. However, it is there, on the edges of my consciousness at least.

    I might agree with Barthes about the dissociation of the artist and the art (infact the best signature of an artist may be that its almost absent on the best of his art). However, time and again, I have felt that it may be equally important to consider the artist as well, if only for a visceral, less intellectual connection with the artwork (for e.g. Stieg Larsson and his novels).

    Maybe this is my immaturity (I know I have been and I love to be a fan-boy many a times), or some other inconsequential short-coming, but, Barthes’ approach to art is still the Utopian destination that I try to walk to and (consciously) never arrive.

    On a lighter note, Garcia and Eco – bang on! 🙂


    • When the artist is the ‘art’, I think it is a bit different. But, I think Barthes article was bang on because of that reason. Are we intellectually impoverished that we need to know the artist to be able to appreciate the art?

      I doubt if we dislike people. In fact we like them. That is what makes us appreciate art in ‘their’ context.

      That is the problem isn’t it?

      🙂 I miss our conversations.


  3. Pingback: A Year in Posts « Gaizabonts
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