Sunday Book-Thought 88

Tortoise: You’ve undoubtedly noticed how some authors go to so much trouble to build up great tension a few pages before the end of their stories – but a reader who is holding the book physically in his hands can FEEL that the story is about to end. Hence, he has some extra information which acts as an advance warning, in a way. The tension is a bit spoiled by the physicality of the book. It would be so much better if, for instance, there were a lot of padding at the end of novels.
Achilles: Padding?
Tortoise: Yes; what I mean is, a lot of extra printed pages which are not part of the story proper, but which serve to conceal the exact location of the end from a cursory glance, or from the feel of the book.
Douglas R. HofstadterGödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (London: Penguin Books, 1980 [first published London: The Harvester Press Ltd, 1979]), p. 402.


Sunday Book-Thought 85

As Georges Poulet reminds us, a book is not just an object among others: it gains its essential life only when read. No text is ‘a space that resists all intrusion’ and the only closed text is one that has never been opened. Once read, a book has a life beyond its physical or authorial confines, and that life is always interactive, even when the reader lives with the memory of the book, constructs him or herself as the dialogic counterpart of the author. At this stage, hypertext vividly illustrates the complex network of processes by which an active reader reads a work: it provides an external correlative for patterns of thought established in a culture of print.  Proponents and visionaries of the new discourse would do well to emphasise these continuities: the genius of hypertext resides in its unprecedented facility for making exterior mechanisms of consciousness which have been developed over the millennia since the invention of writing. Here one would want to add to the interiorisation thesis a related thesis of exteriorisation.
– Seán Burke, The Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes, Foucault and Derrida, 2nd edn (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998), p. 198