Slow Reading

There's no way I could come across an article on "slow reading" and not write about it, so for those of you who still care about such things (and I hope, hope, hope that there are many), Lindsay Waters, in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, writes about how current society, particularly teachers of reading, conspires to get us to read more quickly. I guess my use of the word "conspires" tells a bit about my take on this, eh? Here's a bit (well, maybe more than a bit) of what Waters has to say, albeit a little pedantically :
"In departments of education, professors talk about the "fluency" that those who are learning to read need to achieve to become good readers. Unless one can digest the letters on the page fast enough, one cannot comprehend what one is reading. But once one learns how to read, there is a speed beyond which one stops reading in a truly effective way. I am convinced that most speed-reading is impaired reading, just like the sort you do when you have a fever or are tired or engaged in other tasks at the same time you are supposed to be reading. Unless you are very smart, speed-reading forces you to ignore al but one dimension of a literary work, the simplest information. What we lose is the enjoyment that made people turn to literature in the first place....

"I want to ask what reading would look life if we were to reintroduce, forcefully, the matter of time...The mighty imperative is to speed eveything up, but there might be some advantage in slowing things down. People are trying slow eating. Why not slow reading?...

"The role of literature is to mess with time, to establish its own rhythm. A new agenda for literary studies should open up the time of reading, just as it opens up how the writer establishes his or her rhythm. Instead of rushing by works so fast that we don't even muss up our hair, we should tarry, attend to the sensuousness of reading, allow ourselves to enter the experience of words."
We English majors (once an English major, always an English major, says Garrison Keillor) were taught to read this way in college. It was called close reading (it is still called that, isn't it?), and although not equivalent to slow reading, close reading requires that you read slowly, and the end result is much the same: a much richer reading experience. Wine lovers sip each glass slowly to give the wine time to reveal itself, and to give themselves time to savor the full range of its flavors. So with reading. Reading quickly doesn't lend itself to the pleasures of seeing layers of meaning in a sentence or understanding why the writer chose to use those specific words, or any of the other discoveries and joys of reading good writing. And, then, once you've found a book you truly love...well, there's always rereading.

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