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Amber Paulen

Slow Reading

15 May 2012


On one side of me is the enormous and ever-expanding list of books that I want to read and on the other side is a need that each book be a world unto itself and that it show me some new wonderful way of writing. Modern life is paced quick and though I live in an old city, it’s a city nonetheless and I feel its quickness in me and the pressure to read and read all that I can; I ingest without digesting, I guess. But it’s not only pressure that makes me read too fast, I think, it also has something to do with having read and read and read: words have become rote; I assume what they are before I’ve gotten to the last letter, already moved on to the next word. A horrible habit I’m working to change.

Slow reading is a movement like Slow Food and slow anything that allows the reader to enjoy not only the whole, but to savour every piece of the whole. It would be too self-explanatory to explain if it was how we read most frequently. But it’s not. Especially online, we speed through and skim, rarely taking time to take in what we’ve chosen to spend our time reading. Instead of quality, modern readers are fixated on quantity: how many websites have you really read today? And how many headlines? There is so much information and it’s admittedly difficult to winnow grain from chaff.

How? Slow down! Read word-by-word, then sentence-by-sentence, working up like this through to a paragraph. What little I have read in this way (because I don’t get far at all) has been more useful to me than a book that I have flown through.

I also checked out from the library Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. Instead of listing how one ought to write or not write, it gives examples of how great writers have written. Though I’m not in accordance with all Prose’s examples—no doubt many are her favorite writers—most of them provide an insight that I have been able to apply to my own reading, no matter how tedious. Patience, patience.

Slow reading. It makes me feel like a kid again.



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