In Alberto Manguel’s book, A Reader on Reading there’s a very funny chapter titled The Ideal Reader and I thought I’d pick out a few sentences and interact with them. Here goes …
Alberto: The ideal reader is not a taxidermist.
Me: Alberto, excuse me but is that by any chance a typo? Even if it’s not I’ve got to disagree with you there. What have you got against taxidermists? Personally, I don’t care. I’ll take a taxidermist any day of the week. They might have been stuffing an owl a day ago but if they follow my blog or buy my book or even borrow it from a friend they are my ideal.
Alberto: The ideal reader has no interest in the writings of Bret Easton Ellis.
Me: Really? What have you got against poor Bret. Oh dear, look what I have in my hand. A signed copy of Glamorama … how on earth did I get that? I have absolutely no recollection … none whatsoever… maybe I was drunk … maybe … oh, no, now it’s all coming back to me… It was 1999. It was a dark and stormy night. I had just closed the bookshop on the Charing Cross Road. The seedy lights of Soho beckoned as I turned up the collar of my coat and headed north …
Alberto: The ideal reader has a wicked sense of humour.
Me: I’m with you there Alberto.
Alberto: Every book, good or bad, has its ideal reader.
Me: Well, that’s a relief.
Alberto: The ideal reader proselytizes.
Me: Darling Alberto, have I told you how much I love your book? I really love it. I would not have this blog post without it. Oh God, that’s fawning not proselytizing. How very embarrassing…
Alberto: The ideal reader is (or appears to be) more intelligent than the writer; the ideal reader does not hold this against the writer…
Me: No, I’m sorry you’ve lost me there … I can’t quite get my head around it. Am I the reader or the writer or an owl stuffer. Help me out here Alberto I’m floundering.
Alberto: The ideal reader is someone the writer would not mind spending an evening with, over a glass of wine.
Me: Ah, now you’re talking. Make that a nice bottle of Sicilian Grillo and I’m yours Alberto …
Alberto: Ideal readers never count their books.
Me: You’re beginning to annoy me now Alberto. But whatever you do, don’t read my last post. Ed McBain 21 Agatha Christie 18 Robert Parker and Margery Allingham 17. Look, I’ve no idea why I did it. It just sort of happened.
Alberto: Literature depends, not on ideal readers, but merely on good enough readers.
Me: What! You mean to say we’ve been through all that and end with the merely good enough? I’m disappointed in you Alberto, very disappointed.
On a slightly more serious note the chapter is worth reading in its entirety so I shall now prove my ideal reader credentials by exhorting you to buy Albert Manguel’s book and of course my own. The links are below. If you’re a taxidermist Alberto doesn’t want you but I do. In fact all taxidermists are particularly welcome.
Here comes the question you knew (with sickening inevitability) would be awaiting you if you read to the end.
Who is your ideal reader?
If that makes your brain ache and you’re interested in a signed copy of Glamorama (slightly scuffed, barely read, bit dusty) I’m open to offers.
FAR AWAY by VICTORIA BLAKE:
A READER ON READING by ALBERTO MANGUEL: