The ideal reader wishes both to get to the end of the book and to know that the book will never end.
— Alberto Manguel, A Reader on Reading
In the chapter titled Notes Towards the Definition of an Ideal Reader, Manguel lists around seventy, sometimes contradictory (or paradoxical?), statements about the ideal reader. He’s onto something.
Today’s quote is an example of an extended chiasmus, a figure where the word order of two parallel structures is inverted. To get to the end mirrors will never end, and the doubled book is mirror-sandwiched between the two.
The last item of his list is worth noting.
Literature depends, not on ideal readers, but merely on good enough readers.
For, after all, ideals are fictional, and even then they’re not quite so ideal. Better leave them to mathematics (ring theory, in particular).
- A Reader on Reading, Alberto Manguel. Because you’re curious about readers and books.
- The Reader, Bernhard Schlink. (In English translation, original is in German.) Because you’ve heard it’s a good book, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. “‘A thriller, a love story and a deeply moving examination of a German conscience’ [Independent on Saturday].”
- Inkheart, Cornelia Funke. (In English translation, original is in German.) Because you haven’t read a good children’s book (9-12) in a while, in which reading is magical activity. Mind you, 563 pages is no doddle, we’re talking serious literature here.