Do Good Writers Make Good Readers?

In Vladimir Nabokov’s Good Readers and Good Writers, Nabokov defines what makes a good reader versus a good writer. When I finished reading his article, many thoughts were flying through my mind. One question in particular that came to my mind when I was reading was how much the qualities of good readers and good writers overlap, and if a good writer would make a good reader? As I analyzed Nabokov’s argument, I found that some of the traits of a good writer easily overlapped with those of good readers. For example, good writers must possess the four traits critical to good readers: imagination as storytellers, dictionaries & memories as teachers, and artistic sense as enchanters.

However, other traits that Nabokov noted as critical to being a good reader made me uncertain of if a good writer could earn the classification as a good reader. In order to be a good reader, Nabokov claims that we must study the worlds within books as brand new, paying very close attention to the details. We must visualize the author’s setting and characters by learning to curb our own imaginations. Good writers, though, do not accept the world in its entirety, and instead see it as the “potentiality for fiction”. So, if writers approach worlds with the intent to craft it anew, how can they immerse themselves in the details of the worlds of other writers without creating their own? Are good writers even able to curb their imaginations in order to do partake in good reading? While I am uncertain of the elasticity of Nabokov’s traits of good readers and good writers, I would like to ask him what his thoughts on this matter are. I wonder if it is possible to be too imaginative; if there is a point where a writer is so good that they could not possibly be a good reader.

2 thoughts on “Do Good Writers Make Good Readers?

  1. PATRICK HEALY

    The idea of a good writer and reader having both overlapping and contradicting criteria was an interesting critique that was thought-provoking.

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  2. HANK S

    It’s interesting that Nabokov doesn’t explicitly explore how good writers & good readers overlap. My thought after reading his essay is that a good reader meets a good writer halfway, and both are using their imagination an equal amount to create the same world. So if you’re a good writer & you’re adept at imagining worlds for other readers, than you’d likely be adept at imagining the world another writer offers you while reading their work.

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