My Superpower: Closed-Eye Reading

August 25th, 2010

A recent episode of This American Life revolved around superpowers and this morning I was reminded that I do have one of my own: I can read with my eyes closed. Most of the time I read the usual way, but sometimes, reclining in my easy chair, my eyes grow heavy and I lay the open book down across my chest. The conditions are: the book must be open to the page where I left off and I need to be in direct contact with the book. I cannot lay it down beside me on the table or leave it in a whole other room. It helps for the reading light to remain on, but this is not necessary. The pages pressed to my heart, I close my eyes and continue to read.

Now, I don’t mean I fall asleep and have a dream about the book I was reading. Anyone can do that. I am not, in fact, asleep. I close my eyes and through my lids continue to scan words into my brain. The superpower comes from a psychic connection I create with the author, so that I know what she meant to write. My closed-eyed reading occurs in a pleasant state between unconsciousness and wakefulness, and I am grateful to be able rest and read at the same time. I don’t remember contacting a radioactive book or some other common way of acquiring this superpower. I think I inherited it. The only other person I have met with this ability was my mom, and I think it worked pretty much the same way for her.

Super power associated with reading seems like an appropriate gift for an English teacher and writer, but I admit I have found its usefulness slightly limited. What the author meant to say, those words transmitted through my lids, turns out not to be the same as the physical printed edition. I am not sure if what I receive is the mental inspiration before the words actually made it to the page, an earlier, unedited version, or the words that, after publication, the author wished she had published. Because of this mismatch, when I open my eyes I feel the need to re-read the same section I’d just absorbed, so I haven’t actually saved any time.

Nor have I made an honest effort to cultivate my power by, say, opening a book across my chest before bed and seeing if I could read it before morning. I am afraid I might not wake up refreshed, having been only half asleep all night, and not giving my brain a proper chance to rest. I simply appreciate these moments of communion with authors who are inconveniently dead or otherwise uninterested in contacting me by conventional means.

Comments are closed.