Slow It Down

August 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

After taking in a paragraph, I might pause and stare off into the distance for fifteen minutes. I will then read it again, maybe twice more if it’s especially striking, and pick apart its construction. … If I’m reading a chase scene, I might try to understand the mechanics of it, how it uses run-on sentences to create a sense of breathlessness, how it opens up paragraphs with a long string of prepositions to orient us in a city, that kind of thing.

At The Rumpus, Benjamin Percy on learning the virtues of slowing down one’s reading, or what he calls “reading like a writer.” In my case, I was already a slow reader—I might average 35 books a year, a minuscule number compared to most people I know who consider themselves book lovers—and the writer excuse came around later. My instinct will always be to absorb things linearly, which means not skipping over the mundane parts. But what Percy is talking about is the need to go back and analyze phrases and construction and narrative choices in a text, something that one needs not do when strictly “reading for pleasure.” I sort of do that, too, but usually when I’m reading something a second time.

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