A great book might open with an uneventful 100 pages of exposition. It might be a brief history of the town the novel is set in, the narrator’s tedious self-analysis, or a verbose description of a house. Reading thoughtful books, especially at the outset, can seem less like leisure and more like work.
Well, it is work. It can be an immersive and satisfying job, but accessing the real power of thought and emotion behind the text is definitely work. Translating letters and words into sounds sentences is simply decoding. To really read, students have to learn to seek meaning.
“Why is that part funny?” seems like a simple question, but think of the many things a reader must do to be able to answer it. Besides being able to keep track of salient plot points, the reader must judge character traits and gauge the tone of voice used in a passage. These tasks and others must be performed in concert to detect hyperbole, or even irony, in order to recognize that a series of letters printed on paper is, in fact, funny.
It’s easy to see how this kind of analysis could suck the humor out of any passage, which means that, in order for it to actually be funny, all of these feats must be accomplished involuntarily. Discerning any meaning contained in a book, besides just humor, demands a wide-ranging skill set. More than that, if the meaning of a book is to achieve its intended impact, the reader must be so adept at this skill set that employing it becomes second nature.