Blog No. 55
I am a slow reader. Not only do I tend to go long stretches between books (or sometimes chapters) but I have to spend hours poured into a book to read it. In part my slow pace comes from reading being a leisure activity for me. I enjoy taking my time and soaking it all in. Just like movies, I very easily lose myself in a good book. I feel like I am actually transported to the world the writer created. Another reason I am a slow reader is that I actually read every single word on the page. I have been told by a few friends who are big readers that they skim a lot.
The idea is completely foreign to me. It probably stems from my nature, but the thought of skimming through the words sounds like eating food in pill form. Sure you are eating the meal, but you aren’t tasting it. They may argue that sometimes side dish doesn’t taste very good and while I could come back at that with all kinds of quips about eating a different meal or going to a different restaurant, the entire argument is in my head so it’s all pretty moot. The point is I read every word because that’s how I read and probably because that’s the kind of person I am. I have always been an observer. (Which is probably a whole other topic so I’m going to leave it there for now).
One of my university professors taught me that poetry rewards the slow reader. I believe that poetry is essentially the attempt to express emotions with words. Sadly words usually fall short. But with that in mind, poets try to use words to their fullest extent. With that in mind, every word used in a poem becomes important (not only due to poems usually being short, but also because of what they are trying to achieve). A slow reader has an advantage in that he or she (or me) already reads every word and tends to take it all in. It’s like driving. Sure you can get to Toronto faster on the 401, but I prefer to take the back roads. The drive is more enjoyable and you get a good look at the things you drive by. On a side note, this idea works best with the classical style since it follows such a strict formula. In fact it works so well that any deviation is a clear sign of intended meaning. With modern (and post-modern) poetry all that structure and meaning is void so your guess is as good as mine.
When it comes to other writing I think the same concept works. The author choose a word over every other word, it has a meaning all its own and it has a meaning in context with everything around it. Sure some words are just fillers. They are only there to make a sentence complete, but in my own writing I try to choose even those words carefully, so I assume the author I am reading did too. Even if the choice was unconscious, it has some meaning behind it. The point is that I am a slow reader and personally I think it pays off. It may not be for everyone, but I enjoy reading that way and I fell (as a beginning author) that there is more to learn taking your time.
I think my slow reading came out of my lack of reading as a child. I don’t have a lot of fond memories or reading as a child mostly because I didn’t read much. It’s much the same as anything else in this world – the more you do something, the better you get at it. I have gone back to read some kids classics and enjoy some of them. (A good story is a good story). A lot of that backtracking came from school along with my appreciation of poetry. I had a class in children’s lit and found that I really enjoyed a couple of the books I read. I went back and read a few more and since I worked in a bookstore at the time I found that I even read a few really good current youth books. I find books written for children and teens tend to have an immediacy that some fiction meant for adults doesn’t. The authors get to the point and fill the pages with action. A couple of good examples are the Percy Jackson books and the His Dark Materials trilogy. Both sets of books are good reads with lots of action. His Dark Materials also happens to be really deep trilogy that many adults would enjoy like I did (if you can call me an adult). Being a slow reader doesn’t play into those books as much. They are generally shorter and move quickly. That doesn’t mean the words carry any less meaning though.
I think this is where I’m going to end my continuing posts on reading for now. There is more I wanted to get to, but I find it hard to fit them into the loose word cap I gave myself. That and it would be difficult to shovel them into the topic I landed on this week. I may do another part in the future or I may find a different way to get to those ideas and anecdotes. Either way I enjoyed looking back at my early reading experiences and where that led me to today. I hope you did too. If not next week I’ll try to find something spicier to write about (but I probably won’t).