Slow Reading

As spring is approaching, I have tried to mend my reading habits by reading more and doing this by just grabbing the books I happen to have (along with the books I have for my studies). My neglect of novels became unbearable because not much else occupied my time beside my studies—I mostly kept up with the news and moped about missed opportunities because of this horrid year. Of course, moping just will not do. So what have you been doing? Utterly wasting the free time I have. This certainly does not sound interesting, but then again, I can sympathize with people who were or still are overcome by restlessness and the way it affects how they spend their day.

So, I grabbed my books and I do mean in the plural sense. During the day I try to read and proceed in at least one novel and in the evenings I place three on my table so I would at least read one chapter from each. Even a chapter a day has helped me regain my enthusiasm for reading more and therefore made me become easier on myself and my habits, because having become slow and neglecting reading much more was initially really discouraging. At the moment, I do not have much beside my books (and quite frankly, I prefer it that way even though I’m not making a lot of money – what can I do with it if I cannot go to places?), so it became exceedingly important to try and reconnect with novels and to do it with more consideration towards myself. I can also generally be a slow reader, but this mostly when I read classics which sometimes force me to go back and read certain paragraphs or sentences again because they might have been just too wonderful or intriguing in their wording and I wonder how did they come up with this. (Okay, not sometimes—often.) But patience is key, especially in our current situation in a broader sense, and so I’m trying to also embrace my interest in how an author chooses to express themselves.

I mostly wish I weren’t a slow reader and there is probably a stupid reason behind this. Could be vanity—as in hoping to get along already from one book to the next so that my bookshelf actually looked like a bookshelf (ironically, I do not have one; maybe soon). Or, could be my impatience to broaden my knowledge of literature because the world of literature as it is has been created through connections and references and inspirations between novels and essays by writers and philosophers. Philosophical contemplations, mental sufferings, conflicts in relationships, complexity of love and psychology… These are some of the never-ending qualities in literary works, and often a writer is so skilled and learned that they will reference or take inspiration from their predecessors. Of course, this is just me. Many probably could not care less about epics like Homer’s Odyssey, or the tales collected as One Thousand and One Nights, or older classics like Don Quixote and Tristram Shandy, or modern ones from Kafka and Steinbeck. This becomes an interest in literary history and it certainly is not the thing that initially got me into reading—it was the intriguing and thrilling stories and complex characters writers create. So, it should not really matter whether one reads slow or is a quicker reader.

Nevertheless, this interest still exists in me to some extent, and created the demand that I should become a quicker reader who reads one work at a time since there was also the fear of becoming bored with the narrative. This, though, has not been successful. Again, I tend to go back in texts—which can be a concentration problem, but really, it often is the impressive or striking wording. I also remember having to read George Eliot’s Middlemarch to a class last autumn and because this a massive book with a lengthy story about provincial people, I had to just skim and sometimes flick through the pages to get to the end, basically leaving this eighty-six-chapter novel unread (not unfinished, but unread in a thorough sense). Annoyed, I resolved to take my time with this incredible novel and continue in my own pace, thinking I should still read it somewhat quickly. This was in last October and I cannot say I’ve progressed beyond two or three chapters, basically abandoning the book entirely by November—even neglecting my interest in Eliot’s way of writing. (How I do envy fast readers.)  I’m a student, sure, but studies do not take twenty-four hours of your day, and I thought neither should my restlessness and, obviously, my moping. My solution, then, was just opening many books during the same day and reading on about what happens next, even if it was just one to two chapters. How remarkable, right?

This is no revelation, certainly. But I’m thinking of this because before this year, I disliked this style of reading. I do not think it was about becoming confused and mixing different plots together. I think it was simply trying to absorb myself in one story at a time so that the effect would have been singular, or in other words more remarkable in every reading. And also, focusing on one narrative in terms of aesthetic appreciation so that I would remember the effect of the text. As this year entered its third month, however, and as I have tried to occupy some of my free time reading much more than last year, I’ve liked opening multiple books and moving along with the stories. Naturally this brings much more variety and as I’m in the middle of many stories, it forces me to jump from one to the other. Occasionally I read forward more quickly, but I’ve also learned to embrace my slower way of reading that takes into account the beauty of the written word. I will probably then also open Middlemarch again and see how far into the spring it will take me…