Seeing What We Read

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More banally we may stand at the luggage collection carousel watching endless bags tumble onto the belt. We hold in our minds a shadowy idea of our own bag. Then suddenly it is there and the effort of “visualizing” ceases. Perhaps we realize that the bag is not quite as we remembered it. There are three zips not two. Or at least this is my experience. And when I read, I do not so much see the characters and the places as feel satisfied that if they were to appear to me I would recognize them. Hence our discomfort when we see the film of the book and the actors look nothing like the people we supposed we knew.

Tim Parks on how we visualize the words we read.


Lyz's writing has been published in the New York Times Motherlode, Jezebel, Aeon, Pacific Standard, and others. Her book on midwestern churches is forthcoming from Indiana University Press. She has her MFA from Lesley and skulks about on Twitter @lyzl. Lyz is a member of The Rumpus Advisory Board and a full-time staff writer for the Columbia Journalism Review. More from this author →