October 15, 2004
Daily question(s), #3
Are you a careful reader or a fast reader?
I try to be a careful reader, but my default reading mode seems to be hard-wired toward getting through material as quickly as possible. When I'm really enjoying a novel, I usually can't resist the temptation to rush through it to see how the plot unfolds. It's the closest I can get to instant gratification in reading -- but it means that I tend to miss a lot of subtleties my first time through a book. If I want to really savor the prose or look for subtext and deeper meanings, I almost always need a second reading.
I learned to read this way as a child, when for reasons that are lost to me now, I perceived reading as some sort of competition. During summers, I felt a compulsion to get through as many books as possible. As it happened, this was a skill that served me well as an undergraduate English major: reading fast was tremendously advantageous in courses paced at a novel per week.
Now, I'd prefer to be able to read in a more leisurely fashion, but it requires a lot of self-discipline for me to do that. This is part of why I enjoy the occasional lightweight and/or trashy novel -- I can devour it quickly without guilt or worry that I've missed anything below the surface.
at October 15, 2004 10:23 PM
"I can devour it quickly"....sorrz, that just struck me as funny!
I'm a speed-reader, too! For novels, but particularly for criticism, I have to read everything twice, which probably takes MORE time than reading slowly in the first place.
Yeah, I'm equally bad with work- or research-related reading, where getting that deeper understanding matters a lot more. I can't say how many times I've been reading an article, and realize after turning a page that I have only the vaguest idea what was said on the previous page. I always get it eventually, but it often takes me two or three readings. Taking notes while I'm reading and reading aloud to myself help a lot, but people tend to look at you pretty funny when you read out loud to yourself in public!
Can I blame it on being part of the original MTV generation?
definitely a fast reader. I know exactly where the feeling of competition came for me: those silly little SAR tests (I don't remember what SAR stands for). You take a card, read a story, answer the questions. If you get enough right, you move up a level. if you get enough wrong, you stay where you are or move down a little. I was always in a one-sided competition with my best friend (I was competing, but I don't thing she was) to get as many done as possible--that was also part of it--how many cards you could get through in one sitting. Thing was, she was both fast and careful. I was just fast--usually never did quite as well on the questions because enough didn't sink in.
On the other hand, I am the perfect re-reader. Even with mystery novels, I can re-read a book not remembering "who done it." Same goes for movies. But I have a P.D. James quote that says something like, "a book isn't worth reading unless it's worth reading twice."