Theorists of deconstruction often talk of the “death of the author.” They seem to mean that once a writing enters the world of readers, the author ceases to have any importance. For at that point, the writing exists as a thing with meaning only through the experiences, conscious as well as unconscious, of the reader. The author loses his or her author-ity to determine meaning. That is transferred to the reader.
Let us consider an opposite phenomenon – the death of the reader. For, dear reader, how do I know that you are even there? Given the vagaries of the Internet, it is likely you are not. But beyond this, it must be acknowledged that I write with no particular reader in mind. Here I sit typing words into a void. Wherever the words go is a matter of almost complete chance. I call out to that void and only hear my own voice echoing endlessly. Are you alive, dear reader?
Also, consider this perspective. My words describe dark places. If you join me, my hope is that you will go there and die over and over again. As I myself have died a thousand annhilations in the words of Nietzsche, Lovecraft, Borges, Cioran, Ligotti. Delicious, terrifying, rapturous deaths in the rotting soil of truth.
Yes. Each reader is dying. It really seems to be what all of our horror, existential angst, and dark nights of the soul are about. The death of the reader is an intolerable thought, but it is true. Like a child watching a monster movie, we cover our eyes but peek through our open fingers. Let us take down our hands and gaze unhindered upon the hideous truth.