Bad Readers and Good Writers, a Response to Nabakov

In Nabakov’s essay ‘Good Readers and Good Writers,’ he writes about the qualities that make a good reader and a good writer, and the reaction that occurs when the two of them combine. One of the main points that he writes about is how a reader should never relate themselves with a character that they read about, because every well-written character should be strikingly independent.

I fundamentally disagree with this idea, because it bases itself on the idea that just because a reader and a character have different qualities, the reader cannot still put themselves in the shoes of said character. Just because a character I read about does not have the same looks or experiences as me, does not mean that I can’t empathize with their struggle. In fact, I believe that a truly good writer forces their readers into the perspective of the characters that they read about to the point that seeing themselves in the character is an inevitable byproduct.

Nabakov would strongly disagree with this statement, characterizing relation with a character as ‘bad reading’ however this sentiment is another of which I disagree. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a bad reader as long as that person is reading and interpreting the information presented to them. Everybody reads, perceives, and develops differently when a story is presented to them, so to label a certain way of reading right or wrong seems very one-sided to me.

However, overall Nabakov does present an interesting thesis despite its flaws, which can be studied in order to further understand the use of stories and literature.

One thought on “Bad Readers and Good Writers, a Response to Nabakov

  1. Liam L

    I agree with the sentiment that good writers put readers in the perspective of the characters they write about, but I think what Nabokov is saying is that the reader should have an objective point of view when reading a book, since his idea of a book is different from most people. It’s simultaneously very broad and very narrow, that a good book should be a completely brand new world that nobody’s ever experienced before, and that relating to it would be spoiling that idea. However, literature is not just what Nabokov defines as his idea of “good” writing, so in other stories, his ideas of being a good reader just don’t apply. Pretty good analysis 🙂


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