Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Mystery of Engagement

What is the source of our imagination? From where come the images and details which fill library walls, fantastic in conception and like nowhere familiar? Line after line of detail pours forth and the writer responsible for painting these graphic pictures could have no first-hand knowledge of the information they so accurately create. It will all have a familiar ring and seem plausible. Even likely, as though this is the way things should be and we, the readers, are seduced by the depth and skill of their craft. Yet this all begs the question: If what is being laid-out does not actually exist, how can it be described?

Lineage and Place: these are the two subjects the imagination appears to grab hold of, and is then worked through an ingenious method of synthesis to produce startling, clarified and detailed results. How many writers have laid-out elaborate stories of people that never were, understanding their private natures and the connections these fictitious beings have to one another so completely that their identities can all be fulfilled in the imaginations of the readers? How can a place that never was be built with only the desire to create a new environment? How can these worlds transfer from writer to reader so efficiently that this exchange creates a dialogue which successfully builds an imaginary culture we are free to visit and explore? Is there something in common which exists in the imagination of every individual? Is this what connects us in belief and common understanding?

When we are reading a work of fiction, finely-spun from a working imagination, we all begin from the same text. The words fall in the same sequence before each set of eyes yet there is a vast difference in the reception of what has been so carefully written. What is the point of access for each individual reader — that place where in processing a particular story, composed of artfully chosen words, something will trigger an imagination and the screen of the imaginary mind will commence to project images of what is being described on a page.

The engaged reader works within the text of a novel and as they read, so begins to enchant themselves. Yet sometimes this connection does not fire. Everyone has had the experience of reading something which does not set this transference of language in motion. The reader will remain outside of their own latent imagination, disinterested and bored. Eventually they may put the book down and try another. What has kept them from sparking their interest? Was it that specific details were missing? An image which might have pulled them into the passing narrative and allowed them to join the writer in what was being communicated?

What has kept them outside?

{Artwork by Izumo Kato}

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