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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

SLOW READING

trees hugging




Hearing NPR today, a talk show called Here and Now, after the Diane Rehm show. I like to paint in the morning while these programs are on. I like to listen to them and painting allows even talking on the phone. It's a right brain activity, and listening to talk on the radio is left brain. They don't interfere with each other. I can pay close visual attention and close audio attention at the same time. Sometimes I use NPR talk radio and music with vocals. Painting with people on Diane Rehm show talking about the Swedish writer with a NYT best-seller now, not something I want to read. I refuse to read books about old, deranged white men kidnapping and torturing, etc., white teenage babes. Of course, the point is box office. To scare the hell out of teenage girls is the next best thing for their dates as getting the girls drunk. Evidently, this new Swedish thriller fiction, soon to be a film made for box office and tv, approaches the subject from a feminist point of view, to point to why we don't need this kind of entertainment. I already agree, I don't need to read it to convince myself. In the true spirit of democracy we allow such to circulate, which I believe is a good thing. I don't need to partake if I don't want to. It's all on me, my decision, not the author's, not the publisher's, nor the film director's.



The other day I saw on facebook something about banning pornography. What? Hasn't that been tried, like throughout the history of civilization, then we got the internet and everyone has access to any kind of pornography they could want to see. All ages. However many years later, nothing has changed. People have not become more depraved than ever before on account of it. We might have people more depraved than ever, but more is going on to influence depravity than looking at naked people who get a kick out of having their pictures taken nude. Big deal. What kind of crime is that? Something to trap a politician with is all it's good for as a crime. So what if grandma saw Deep Throat in her hippie years. I was about 15 staying with my grandparents in the summer when one night after I'd gone to bed, grandparents sat up playing poker with grandmother's sister and her husband. They were drinking too. Getting loud. It turned into a circus for me. They got to talking "dirty," the women showed their boobs, all of them laughing. Grandma and grandpa came alive for me that night. They were just plain folks, real people. I appreciated them a great deal before, even more afterward.



The conversation about the book I found worth paying attention to, at the same time advising me not to have a go at the book. I have a problem with living in a society that rewards writers with riches for thinking up these horrid stories of old white guys going at the cheerleading squad. It tells me the society we live in hates women and likes to see them die slowly. That aint right. But it satisfies something in the average human mind. It might allow some to get that kick subliminally, thus preventing action. I heard a few years ago on NPR of some reasearch that found in the big cities there is less crime the weekend of the release of an Arnold movie or some other killing machine mayhem. Maybe this kind of entertainment, and the music that goes with it, sublimates tendencies toward violence in some. Hooray if it does. If films of this nature prevent at least a little bit of same behavior, who could ask for better than that?



The last 10 minutes of Here and Now was a short audio documentary about slow reading, like it's something new. Maybe it is. I've always been a slow reader, from first grade on. I have only been able to read one word at a time. I like to read at the rate we talk. When I'm reading what somebody is saying, I read the words at the rate they're spoken. I've always felt like it was a deficit. Sometime along in the 50s maybe came this passion for fast reading, seminar courses on how to read fast, speed-read. Get ahead. I knew a guy who labelled himself dumb because he couldn't read fast. So he became dumb. I liked to read anyway. I just figured everybody else could speed-read, so everybody else had a head start on me. In college, it's learn to speed-read or else. I took the or else path. I didn't mind my slow reading. It put me out of competition, but I don't care to read for competition anyway. It kept me from even thinking of applying to graduate school, because there was no way I could read a mound of books a day. The courses I'd want to take would have a lot of reading. I'd like it all, but couldn't keep up.



I refused to take up speed-reading because I enjoyed slow reading. I don't know that I have more comprehension than someone who speed-reads, or less, don't care. People I know who speed-read come out of it with tremendous comprehension, at least as much as mine, possibly more. I don't care. When I try to do anything fast it disorients me and I lose all comprehension. Out of school, I'm out of reading competition for grades, can read at my own leisure, when I want to, and no pressure to read when I don't want to. Like half way through a 500 page biography with writing I enjoy reading, I felt like I've spent half my life reading in this thing. I put it aside to let it rest, read something else. But I don't want to read something else. So I don't read. No big thaing. The same happened with a long biography of Patrick White, and I never went back to it. Took a month break in the middle of War & Peace. At the same time, I'm not drawn to short books.



I loved about Ralph Stanley's memoir, MAN OF CONSTANT SORROW, that it rewarded slow reading with subtle nuances of his meaning I can understand now that I have a fair acquaintance with the culture he's coming from. I didn't want to hurry through it. I wanted to savor every word as spoken onto tape by Ralph himself. I knew the rhythm of his speech, the sound of his voice, and much of the time I heard him talking it. That happens frequently in my reading. I wouldn't miss it for the thrill of reading the book in a tenth of the time it took. When I try to read too fast or do anything too fast, I get the nervous jitters that expend a lot of energy and wear me out in a hurry, such that I need a nap, now. I knew once somebody who speed-read and told me he'd read the Bible 13 times. I couldn't help but question silently his comprehension. I thought, if he doesn't get it after 13 times, he'd just as well give up, or maybe read slower. And I have friends who can fly through a book in a few hours that takes me maybe 40 hours to read. And with good comprehension, way better than mine.



Two kids in school were talking on the radio show about slow reading, like this is a new movement. An adult who is in the education field and promoting slow reading did the narrative. I had to remind myself he was talking to people my age and younger who have felt backward all the way along for not being able to speed-read as school, even high school, requires of us. You know by the time you're out of high school a slow reader doesn't have a chance in the world of speed-readers, believing there were probably millions more than there really are. These kids are growing up in a world that doesn't give any credit to slow reading. They were talking about it like tv commercials on Nickelodeon, savoring the language, feeling the emotional content of the words, hearing the rhythms of the words as speech. These and many more reasons they cited to promote slow reading. These were all aspects I enjoyed about slow reading, but still felt like it was a backwards sort of thing. Now it's forward thinking. Reading for me has always been a rich experience, and as I listened to the kids talking it up, I got a look at the various reasons I appreciate good reading. It was an interesting non-judgmental overview of what I enjoy about reading spelled out as the side-effects of slow reading. My friends who read fast enjoy it too, and feel at least as much or as deeply or as much as I do.



I'd never entertained a notion that slow reading was anything but down the ladder from speed-reading. If I'm climbing an academic ladder, fast reading is essential. But I'm not climbing any ladders except to clean out the gutters on the house. It continues to ring unbelieveable in my head that throughout my lifetime speed-reading has been held up as the only way to go, better comprehension, the works, and maybe so, for all I knew. Now they're saying slow is best, for the very same reasons.

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