We read to find the end, for the story’s sake. We read not to reach it, for the sake of the reading itself. We read searchingly, like trackers, oblivious of our surroundings. We read distractedly, skipping pages. We read contemptuously, admiringly, negligently, angrily, passionately, enviously, longingly. We read in gusts of sudden pleasure, without knowing what brought the pleasure along. ‘What in the world is this emotion?’ asks Rebecca West after reading King Lear. ‘What is the bearing of supremely great works of art on my life which makes me feel so glad?’ We don’t know: we read ignorantly. We read in slow, long motions, as if drifting in space, weightless. We read full of prejudice, malignantly. We read generously, making excuses for the text, filling gaps, mending faults. And sometimes, when the stars are kind, we read with an intake of breath, with a shudder, as if someone or something has ‘walked over our grave,’ as if a memory had suddenly been rescued from a place deep within us—the recognition of something we never knew was there, or of something we vaguely felt as a flicker or shadow, whose ghostly form rises and passes back into us before we can see what it is, leaving us older and wiser.
Alberto Manguel, A History of Reading