Zigzagging down the page

Heather Blanton, Abstract Skiers Downhill

Reading has more in common with skiing that one might suppose.

A fast reader is a slalom master, negotiating hard turns through the narrow gates of meaning.

Not every adventure is a descent, as any cross-country skier knows. And the best experiences are not downward turns, but arduous ascents up the hermeneutical mountain.

But a book remains a slope and every run counts. No skier worth her salt will ever only attempt a slope just once. It is through repetition that technique improves and the mountain may be tamed and made one’s own.

Some texts are off-piste and that’s why they need to be tackled with care. There are cracks between the lines as there are crevices on the mightiest of glaciers.

Equipment is key. The unequiped reader may attempt an exegetic run at her peril.

Falling is part of the experience, as is failure and suffering. An accident on the mountain may have limited, albeit dire consequences. One in a text may ruin several generations, as a good critical editor knows.

One doesn’t need a reason to open a book and put the skis on. The compulsion to conquer, the desire to know, to experience, to embark on a journey, is what makes one turn one page after another.

A closed book may be a silent mountain, but it is one which seduces from afar, gently but resolutely.

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