‘The Reader Effect’

[Photo July 19, 2015. Copyright 2015 The New York Times Company]. City of Asylum’s first exiled writer-in-residence was Huang Xiang. He wrote: “‘In China I was like a fossil… When I came to the United States and people discovered me, they dug me out of the earth and I became alive’… Mr. Huang painted calligraphy of his poetry on the facade of his City of Asylum rowhouse, which has become a neighborhood icon.”

… Like a scene from Mr. Rushdie’s novel “Shalimar the Clown,” a knife-wielding man rushed onto the stage and began to stab him. Immediately audience members ran to the stage to defend him. It was a remarkable response. That rush of people leaping from their seats was the opposite of the so-called “bystander effect,” when individuals do nothing, relying on others to help. I would call it “the reader effect.” Reading creates empathy… The intuitive response of an empathetic community is to help.

(Henry Reese, “I Was Onstage With Salman Rushdie That Day, and What I Saw Was Remarkable,” NYTimes, 9-2-22)

In 1997, Henry Reese and his wife, Diane Samuels, founded Pittsburgh: City of Asylum, which provides a safe haven for persecuted writers, artists and journalists. Their program includes: “a rent-free home for two years or more if necessary, a stipend, legal counsel, medical benefits and access to professional development opportunities.”

As Mr. Rushdie said in 1997, it’s not just about his right to write; it’s also about our right to read.

(Henry Reese)

(c) 2022 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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