I’m Not Here

The Reading Body in Physical and Social Space
  • Thomas Mc Laughlin


Teaching at a university in the mountains of western North Carolina, I often meet students who are avid hikers. Some have even hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, an experience that permanently transforms their lives. One such student, a thoughtful, habitual reader, told me that his favorite moments on the trail were the times when he spent the night sleeping in a hammock slung between trees, alone in the vast mountain forests. Before he went to sleep, he would read and reread a paperback novel he had brought with him, the only light in that profound darkness provided by a caving lantern he wore on a strap around his head. His pleasure did not come so much from the particular novel he was reading as from the very act of reading itself, especially in an environment which seemed actively hostile to his efforts. The memory was precious because he had created a way to keep his mind active, to combat the loneliness of the long-distance hiker. This method of reading required him to adapt his gear and his body to the task, despite all odds. I can imagine the scene—the darkness of the forest, one single, dim light, an unlikely perch for an unlikely act, a reader creating a space in which the eyes could find the book and take the mind into another world, as reading always does.


Public Space Social Space Reading Experience Private Space Conscious Attention 
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© Thomas Mc Laughlin 2015

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  • Thomas Mc Laughlin

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