About Taking Your Sweet TimeBy Alicia Grimshaw
I think it’s about time we embraced slow reading again. Call me biased, but I wasn’t a ‘Fast Reader’ when I was little. I wasn’t getting my baby teeth into my first novel at five and I didn’t trail down the street after my parents with my button nose in a book. Once, at my seventh birthday party, a boy politely snubbed pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and pulled out out his book, suddenly looking aged and debonair, with one leg crossed over the other the way our Dads did it… and every few pages, he laughed, out loud. I stopped dead in my birthday-girl tracks; how could reading alone be that funny?
I was somewhat slower on the literary uptake than my prodigal peers (until I read Judy Blume and everything changed). Do you remember when you were a slow reader? When you had to mouth the words or use your finger to keep your place? Because then you’ll remember the penny-drop jubilation of getting to the end; the moment something slotted into place. This was our first taste of what psychologists call ‘deep reading’ – a slowed-down state linked to hypnotic trance, where we take the time to connect up the words in front of us with our own experience. The more we enjoy what we are reading, so say the experts, the slower we go.
But the reading habits we formed during younger days have recently been put through a weird wringer. For an average of 17.8 hours each day, millennials rotate tirelessly between different media at increasing speed, losing concentration spans to a black hole of hyperlinks and multiple tabs. Earlier this month, the tech world gave its ambivalent verdict on speed-reading app Spritz, which lets you read up to 1000 words per minute ‘by eliminating the obstacles associated with traditional reading’. For digital natives, work and play continue to intertwine – but Spritz makes a mistake by mixing up practical reading (of an overflowing work inbox, say) with pleasure reading (which should be deliciously free of time constraint).
So, in honour of slower, deeper reading (and to snip the inaugural ribbon on this column), here are three books from the past year I think it’s about time you read – real, real slow:
1. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – The Nigerian author’s super-lauded third book – tome – topped nearly every Best Of 2013 list. A belated plea to those who haven’t yet read this: it has everything. The last page is lump-in-throat.
2. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – Another brick-like third novel, this was a big moment for ardent fans of Tartt’s ‘90s cult classic, The Secret History. The descriptions of grandiose New York make you want to jump on a plane immediately.
3. The Son, Phillip Meyer – A modern epic novel sprawling five generations of one family, The Son deserves its comparison to Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Juicily charts the glory days and downfalls of Texas with none of the weightiness of historical fiction.