Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Who is the reader? You , or, the person who buys your book and reads, or, a literary critic?

The Reader: Img Courtesy: www.SXC.HU
(Guest Post by Ram Ramkrishnan)

There would have been many an occasion when each of us would have wondered whether there were more of us in ourselves than the entity we generally regarded as ourselves. The prevailing norms of wisdom would have negated and thwarted any further reflection on this question. A heated yet un-acrimonious discussion, not very long ago, between my daughter and son who are pursuing different levels of medical education about patients suffering from a particular type of brain damage called Capgras syndrome, in which I was an essentially silent yet deeply involved participant, unshackled the imaginative process from its earlier constraint of restrictive prudence on this mysterious matter of possible multiple personalities.

The quintessence of their discussion was that each sense with which the human body probes the environment about itself, gives rise to and nurtures a slightly different personality based on its own separate experience - all of which need not necessary be identical, and that the one so fostered by the sense of vision generally dominates the others. Another related point that was dwelt upon during this interesting debate was that a class of brain cells called mirror neurons, were the primary instigators and perpetrators of this supposedly exclusive human trait of empathy – the ability to see, or at least strive to see, a situation from a perspective different from one’s own material, emotional, and experienceable references.

This revelation, if it could be called one, is what came to the fore to provide a reasonable explanation to my otherwise long-held view that authors – or at least most of them – primarily write for themselves. They are their own readers. It is true that others that read the work of an author as well as literary critics who rate an author’s work do form part of the larger perceptional and associative realms of the writer. As one continues on this path of written articulation of one’s thoughts, and experiences various shades and intensities of criticisms, accolades, and indifference from critics and readers, one unconsciously empathizes with these personalities and a small measure of each of their persona coalesces with that of one’s own, changing one’s perspective towards the world and one’s convictions just that wee bit to account for the points thrown up by this interaction. But these changes are not sweeping or potent enough to overshadow or completely submerge the original self. Authors mature by this process – but still write only for themselves. In more unsophisticated terms, this accretion or erosion to the author’s multilayered personality is akin to adorning an appropriate makeup and looking into the mirror, because the world is only a reflection of us and our perspectives.

Ram Ramakrishnan

1 comment:

Hersh Bhardwaj said...

'Mirror Neurons' is an interesting theory to illustrate multi-faceted voices within one single text. Still, bringing it forth is an art no less.

Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets jokes about character forming in writing, when his fan asks 'how do you write women so well?', Jack( Melvin Udall in the film) replies- ' I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability'.