THE BLOG

Read Up!

11/25/2012 04:12 pm ET | Updated Jan 25, 2013

What's key about communicating is the formation of meaning. And that doesn't happen on the page. It happens in the mind of the reader. That's who you have to care about, and that's where you do your work as a writer.

As Nabokov said in Lectures on Literature (and I re-tweeted the quote on @1000thenovel for this reason), "Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, and active and creative reader is a rereader." Our associations with great literature change, our attention deepens with re-reading, and the meaning we create therefore changes.

Thanksgiving day 2012, @TheThumbist tweeted, "@1000theNovel where is a newbie to start?? #literarylego." I'm really thankful for that curiosity.

A few other comments have made it clear that some readers began their encounter with @1000thenovel by reading down, and then flipped and started at the beginning, reading up.

For me, this as a feature of meaning-making at this moment in Twitter's evolution. Unlike Jack Kerouak's famous long typewriter scroll, the beginning is at the bottom of a Twitter feed. And so, I assumed that, sometimes, people would start in the middle and read in reverse before righting the order and starting at the beginning.

Doubtless future writers will find this aspect of the form as demanding as iambic pentameter, and I know I struggled with it. Yet, when it clicked, it gave me the feeling of having known someone for a brief yet intense time. And, like getting to know someone, it was not necessarily a linear process, but it sorted out into one over time.

Because the mind likes to build stories. When we re-read a novel, we build that story differently in a million subtle ways. In point of fact, we already know how it will end and this doesn't discourage us from rereading at all.

Similarly, as the Twitter novel progresses, we know where it ends up, at least temporarily. This provokes our first reading and meaning-making process with the tweet novel to have already a quality of rereading.

And since I am writing this on Thanksgiving, I should have even more motivation than usual to say: I'm thankful for readers with active minds. Nabokov is right to praise a good, major and creative reader as necessary for literature.

Indeed, the reader is the medium itself, not the transmitting book -- whether transmitting on parchment or on Twitter.