Virginia Woolf offers a variety of answers to her opening question, “How should one read a book?” First she urges us to have faith in our ability to read and form judgments. She knows it’s tempting to reach for the critics and hear what they have to say about a book. But she wants us to free ourselves from their authority.
So how do we start? The reader must also free herself from any preconceptions. Instead of rushing to judgment, we should read with an open mind by first trying to read with the author:
Try to become him. Be his fellow-worker and accomplice.
Be on the author’s side and read sympathetically so you can have the fullest experience of the reading. Another tip is that we should consider writing ourselves, to see how difficult it is to try to capture an experience in words. Once we have fumbled our way with scratching some words on the page, we can then compare our scratchings to the great masters and truly appreciate just how difficult the job of writing is.
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