The Reading Game

Is reading and what is called its counterpart writing always a type of voluntary solitary confinement? Is reading an act of seclusion (withdrawing) or an act of exclusion (pushing away), or both?

Perhaps one of the strongest models of a presumed disjunction between everyday life and art, stream of consciousness and self-consciousness, is presented in the invisible social space of reading and writing, a space defined temporally and spatially as outside and above the quotidian.

Although reading may give form to time, it does not count in time; it leaves no trace; its product is invisible. The marks in the margins of the page are the marks of writing, not the marks of reading. Since the moment of Augustine’s reading silently to himself, reading has inhabited the scenes of solitude: the attic, the beach, the commuter train, scenes whose profound loneliness arise [sic] only because of their proximity to a tumultuous life which remains outside their peripheries. The reader speaks only to the absent writer; the writer speaks only to the absent reader.


— Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (1993, 14), quoted in Julian Wolfreys, Readings: Acts of Close Reading in Literary Theory. Edinburgh UP, 2000, 129.

Maybe not.

What if a “hoax” could be arranged as a game that an enlightened reader can play along with the writer almost in real time? For the reader’s writer as described above is absent ultimately because of death, as is the writer’s reader in due time. The two can intersect only within the realm of the book, which is reading.

To play the game forever, by launching a manuscript into the future, means a simulacrum of eternal life.

To establish the grounds upon which to build the game — The Biblioscape — will require thought.

Edgar Poe is playing a game with you.