Reading: The Sacrament of Stripping

There is the matter of being, of initial knowing. Everything starts at the first meeting—when the reader innocently walks through the aisle of a bookshop or library, scanning through the spines and covers. Eyes searching for company, and when a certain photograph, illustration, typeface, logo, symbol, or color grabs one’s attention, a certain intimacy is initiated. One wishes to know more.

The reader takes out the book from the shelf, awed by the magnificence of the cover, intrigued by it even. He or she looks at the back cover and reflects upon the blurbs, like listening to friends’ tangled testimonies and memories, like witnesses. There they whisper to the potential reader of the book’s beauty until the bearer is slowly enticed, attracted, compelled to take it away.

Comfortable and all, the reader starts to shed the book’s initial layer, slowly flipping the cover, knowing it more through the flyleaf, dedication page, and table of contents. When the eyes hit the first sentence of the first chapter it is there that both (reader and book) start to make an exchange: a communion as one might say. The book emits words and the reader—in her or his mind—begins to build worlds. A certain communication is established, and the communion could possibly be agreeable, pleasurable, violent, flirty, or boring—but the act of stripping is continuously made between the reader and the book. As the individual flips through the pages, the book is constantly stripped—like onion—for information, for wisdom, for that one critical epiphany. Page upon page, layer upon layer, the reader undresses the book with great care and with deep interest, fingers gently holding the edge of the paper, pondering, sifting through words in attraction and deep bewilderment and wonder and confusion and what have you, what say you. And the reader is also unknowingly stripped of his or her very being. His or her knowledge is shattered and the debris of memories and old convictions fall to the mind’s floor as new wisdom sinks in. The reader sheds his or her outer skin to reveal a better being of new understanding—scared and excited upon looking at the world with brand new eyes.


We read each other like living, breathing books going about our daily lives. We sit on dusty, common shelves, waiting to be seen and read. We hope for that very moment when the other is ready to flip the layers upon layers upon layers upon layers of our life’s pages, and for us, to turn the other.


The expression “[to] read you like a book” is a complete understatement.

[Salvosa 2011, Third Draft {inspired by The Pleasure of the Text by Ronald Barthes}]


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