Friday, April 20, 2012

A Tribute to the Perfect Reader

When authors send their books out into the world, we leave them to fend for themselves. True, there will hopefully be some reviews. But these a strange beasts, often driven by an agenda and not necessarily based on a close reading of the book in question. What authors can rarely do is sit down beside one of their readers while she consumes their work thoroughly and attentively. This is especially the case for me since none of my family have been particularly interested in what I write about.

But I have been lucky enough on one occasion to silently follow a reader through my book. She was called Janet. Stuck in hospital at the beginning of last year, she brought a pile of books and wrote about what she thought of them each day on Librarything. For those that don't know, this is something like Facebook for bibliophiles.

A Google Alert let me know that Janet was working her way through God's Philosophers so I dropped by to eavesdrop. You can read her thoughts here. It is fascinating to follow her through the book and also very instructive for me to see where I had failed to explain something as well as I would like or had come across of defensive. I am very grateful to Janet for giving me an unparalleled insight into what it felt like for an intelligent layperson to read my book. I dropped her an email to say thank you.

At the start of this year, another Google Alert warned me that I was being talked about on Librarything again. This time, there was very sad news. It turned out that Janet had been in hospital for treatment for leukaemia and it had claimed her life in January. A group of her friends online had decided to engage in a group-read of God's Philosophers in her memory. Their discussion was also very instructive for me, and I have let it run its course before mentioning anything here. But I did want to say thank you to Janet. May she rest in peace.

Discuss this post at the Quodlibeta Forum


unkleE said...

That must have been fascinating, James. I browsed through some of the discussions and was most interested in their comments also. I'd never seen the site before, so now I have something else to keep me from doing real work!!

Heather Creps Mansfield said...

Hi, I stumbled on your blog via your 2003 posting regarding GA Wells, who felt (at least at one time) that Jesus was a myth.

Through my recent studies of The Book of Job, I realized that it would be "logically impossible" for God to have incarnated Himself as Jesus.

I just finished a first draft of a first book I published online (accessed via my Facebook Wall, "Heather Creps Mansfield"), in which I discuss this and more things about God, Christianity/the Bible, science, and the law.

I can't find too many interested readers; it's good to know it may not be not "just me."

Matko said...

The comments there are at least constructive in comparison to a reaction I had when I linked to your blog and Timothy's review of your book.

He declared you both Christian apologists who go against what actual historians say. Then he started about Arabs founding universities...