Think you have strange reading habits? Wait until you've seen how Mcluhan read
Reading seems easy only because we are used to it, but in this apparent normality there is plenty of space to be eccentric.
We often forget or neglect to think about the infinite circumstances that are condensed in the acts that we consider habitual. Using a fork to eat, for example, or walking down the street and being able to read the traffic and direction signs. Situations that would appear simple, but which have followed a long historical road to arrive at this quotidian simplicity.
This is also the case of reading, a practice that only recently has extended to include the majority of the population, as it was originally a skill that was reserved for only a few. Little by little, reading went from being an elite pursuit to one that is shared (such as the group readings out loud that took place in Europe in the 17th century) to finally becoming this act in apparent solitude and silence, almost intimacy, that we now indulge in.
But if this is a well-known and evident story, what to think then of the secret of under estimated chapters that were no longer written, that were passed from mouth to mouth like those anecdotes that remain in the bosom of the family? Reading, without a doubt, also has its history of eccentricity that has still to be written, and which would no doubt include the strange habits of Marshall McLuhan, the great theorist of communication who, and not by chance, concerned himself with The Gutenberg Galaxy and the impact of technology on our ways of ‘reading’ the world.
McLuhan, in all his lucidity, read ‘serious’ books following this extravagant method:
If it’s a frivolous, relaxing book, I read every word. But serious books I read on the right-hand side only because I’ve discovered enormous redundancy in any well-written book, and I find that by reading only the right-hand page thus keeps me very wide awake, filling in the other page out of my own noodle.
We cannot know just how effective (or even feasible) this peculiar way of reading by McLuhan was. But it at least suggests a beautiful exercise: by only reading one side of a book, McLuhan forces himself to invent and imagine – and which is, after all, an extension of that eccentric normality with which any one of us carries out the simple task of reading.
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