Reading as a means to slip into another’s skin…

Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.

-Joyce Carol Oates

readingI love this quote by the talented and prolific writer Joyce Carol Oates.

I was lucky enough to hear Oates speak about writing on a visit she had to Rome, see my earlier post .

This quote raises thought-provoking questions about why we read (and write).

Surely, slipping into the mind, the thoughts, and the soul of another human being, even if fictional, is  large part of the appeal.

How many times have I been haunted by thoughts or ideas of characters who were brought to life for me from the inanimate page? How often have they lived on for days or weeks, or even emerged years later, in my memory?

How often do we get that chance in life, to fully slip into then soul of another person (even if fictional)? It’s a powerful experience, and one that opens our horizons as individuals.

What do you think, readers (and writers)? Are there certain characters that truly come alive for you and live on in your mind long after you’ve read the last page of their stories? Are there characters you’ve created whose voices continue to speak in your head?


  1. evelyneholingue on September 12, 2014 at 12:51 am

    That’s what we seek, right, when we write? Creating characters that feel so alive the reader believes they are real people. Hard job to do! I love to read and I have no problem to fall for the characters. But some writers are so skilled that I forget I’m reading a book. I’m currently reading Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving. Gosh, the man is good!
    I’m totally jealous of you by the way! You’ve met Joyce Carol Oates? This is one of my idols! Seriously she is extremely talented. If I met her I would be mute.

    • kimberlysullivan on September 12, 2014 at 8:19 am

      Oh, yes, Evelyne. I love those moments when you’re so absorbed in reading a book that you forget that it’s all a made-up world. Yes, it was exciting for me, too, to see Joyce Carol Oates when she was in Rome. She was so amusing, and so gracious when she signed my book. She seems very committed to her students, too. Lucky Princeton students who can learn writing from her… : )

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