On the value of misreading

Sarah J. Sloat in Passages North:

“Every surprise changes the world,” wrote the aphorist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. In the case of misreadings, the surprise opens the possibility of an alternative world, one in which a clutch of attorneys might “spend the afternoon stargazing in the library,” rather than strategizing, as attorneys in our world are wont to do.

Positive or negative, there is something refreshingly jarring about the unexpected. Good writers do it by thwarting reader expectations. But in the case of misreadings, not the writer but the reader delivers the surprise. The reader’s mind switches out the details. It lapses. It sees what it wants to see. Not only does it overlook, it compensates and embellishes. The misled mind is creative. It doesn’t take words at face value but gets involved, creating a personal subtext.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

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