Thursday, May 29, 2008

On Being a Slow Reader

I don't equate speedreading with a heightened intellect, but three weeks to read just 200 pages is something of a record even for me. When I taught academic reading, I emphasized skimming and scanning among other skills. Some books lend themselves almost exclusively to skimming, usually those I realize early on that I shouldn't have started in the first place but that, obeying an inner parental voice, I make myself read to the end.

At the other end of the spectrum, is the rare book that merits to be scanned throughout. "Les Déchirements*" by Hubert Nyssen is such a book. Not only am I scanning it, I read pencil in hand, underlying, circling, adding my own shorthand in the margin and writing notes on the blank last page.

Briefly, "Les Déchirements" describes how early pivotal experiences and events color our personal life narrative, and how deeply disturbing it is to have them challenged by a close witness's perspective and revelations. The characters and events of this novel do not parallel my own life but they have initiated a voyage of re-evaluation and rediscovery of my own well-worn narrative.
So, at snail pace, I move on, pausing to consider the text and getting sidetracked in my own reflections. I am in no hurry to turn the pages faster, to find out "how it ends". It is not that kind of a novel.

To compensate, my next read will have to distract me from myself. What will it be? A trip to Venice with Donna Leon? A return to a disappeared England with Barbara Pym, or maybe a plunge into South Africa with Athol Fugard's gifted daughter Lisa?

* Heartbreaks, Agonies


Kate G. said...
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Kate G. said...

I didn't know you were a Donna Leon fan, too! Believe it or not, I just finished "Fatal Remedies" last night; I'll be curious to know what you think of it.

"Dressed for Death" is sitting in my pile of books-to-be-read.

DavidT said...

I have never been a slow reader. Nor do I feel compelled to finish a book. Sometimes I read the last chapter so I wont race through the book to find out the end. But, Oh the joy of a book you don't want to end and which you slow down to really savor. Most of my reading is on the Max train and I have been known to miss my station because of a such a book.

Françoise said...

Thank you for de-lurking, David. I was wondering if I had any readers out there . . .