The Reading of Mystery and the Mystery of Reading

Where do these tracks lead?

The trail comes out from under the trees, onto open savannas, where first we stood and began to follow animal traces with our eyes, reading signs and reconstructing stories of our prey. The path winds around a method of examination and interpretation of detail, which we might, in retrospect, call the art of detecting, modeled in a folk tale first known in the west as “The Three Princes of Serendip.” Next the trail moves upward through the scientific methodology and logic of Voltaire’s Zadig and reaches a summit in the technique of ratiocination in Edgar Allan Poe’s definitive mysteries. Eventually, the tracks continue across the screen and lead all the way to–

Well, I wouldn’t want to give it away.

By inviting the reader to participate in the resolution of the mystery, Poe established the genre. Taking advantage of the formal aspects of this type of tale, a tale of detection, which goads the reader into examining and interpreting detail, Poe was in effect encouraging close reading and even literary interpretation. For the art of detecting and the art of reading are so closely intertwined that we may call them the same act.

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Formula for Waking Dreams

Mix a bag of unbleached flour,
water still milky from the tap
and brittle, yellow pages
that slip their binding.

Daub the mixture thick
on a wire frame tangled
as a snarl of hair.
When it hardens, this will be

your altar. Spill wine
along its scabby backbone.
Scatter seed at its misshapen
feet, and as the earth slips from under
the sun’s oppressive eye, you’ll see

why no face is many,
and your form is not dry at all

but molten.

Books That Read Your Gaze

Metafiction often blurs the distinction between the page and the reader. With this new machine, you must ask yourself if the book is reading the person and how that might change both reading and our ways of thinking.

Eye Tracking Tablets and the Promise of Text 2.0” (Epicenter. Wired.com).

Hunters, the First Readers to Tell a Story

The technique of examining and interpreting signs, which may be called “reading,” can be traced back to hunting. Many animals track by smell, which communicates directly to the instincts. Does it smell bad? Stay away! Does it smell good? Follow it and eat it! When a wolf comes across the scent, it doesn’t wonder which direction to go, it doesn’t interpret the smell. If the wolf turns left and the yummy deer smell fades, it turns to the right where the smell is fresher.

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