Monday 29 October 2012

Reading Fast and Slow

I see there are quite a few appreciative reviews of A Lost Lady out there in the blogscape - and rightly so. Many of them speak of reading the book at a sitting, or even, in one case, in an hour. Well, it's only 160 pages, but I can't imagine quite how it could be read - properly read - at such a pace. That kind of speed reading is fine for workaday formulaic prose - or indeed for the wodges of verbal Polyfilla that pad out many a contemporary novel - but for writing as subtle and sinuous, as delicately nuanced as Willa Cather's, surely it is not enough. For myself, when I'm reading really good - or just demanding - prose, I habitually sound it in my head as I read, like reading aloud but silently. I think prose of real quality has to be sounded. But what do I know? The rest of the world, it seems, careers through books at a terrifying speed. Take Andrew Marr, who has just published a big History of the World (to go with his all but unwatchable TV series). Marr claims to have read 2,000 books in the process of researching his own. This surely is a very loose use of the word 'read'. Think about it - if he managed two a week, in among his many other activities (which include much reading for other purposes), that would be 20 years of reading. Hmmm...
Anyway, I see I'm on The Dabbler today, praising an American sonneteer.


  1. John Miedema: "I decided to undertake a broad literature review on research and concepts about the benefits of slow reading. The results were published in a little book, Slow Reading. Perhaps I should not have been surprised at the warm response. Many of us share a quiet conviction that to read slowly is preferable at times. It is a pleasure when reading for recreation, and an aid to comprehension when studying a complex text. This page is an index of publications, presentations, and press related to slow reading."

  2. Thanks for that Dave - I'm glad it's not just me...

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