the majestic silence

You know Phaedrus, that's the strange thing about writing, which makes it truly analogous to painting. The painter's work stands before us as though the paintings were alive, but if you question them, they maintain a most majestic silence. It is the same with written words; they seem to talk to you as though they were intelligent, but if you ask them anything about what they say, from a wish to know more, they go on telling you the same thing over and over again forever.

The text read was nothing but its words, in which signs and meaning overlapped with bewildering precision. Interpretation, exegesis, gloss, commentary, association,, refutation, symbolic and allegorical senses, all rose not from the text itself, but from the reader. The text, like a painted picture, said only 'the moon of Atheus,' it was the reader who furnished it with a full ivory face, a deep dark sky, a landscape of ancient ruins along which Socrates once walked.

Alberto Manguel, A History of Reading