Tuesday, February 12, 2013

In Praise of Slow Reading

Sharon Grigsby, editorial writer for The Dallas Morning News, revealed a detail of the editorial process at that newspaper in a blog post about an op/ed that the newspaper didn't have room to print.
Each Friday about this time, I wrap up one of the most difficult -- and fun -- parts of my job for the week: Selecting five days worth of op/eds for our print Viewpoints page. Just as we have too many good editorial ideas to write each week, as I noted here yesterday, I always have a few columns that I really wanted to publish, but simply ran out of space before "finding them a home."
Apparently, the op/eds are selected up to a week in advance of printing. So, if you ever find yourself reading The Dallas Morning News and thinking that you're reading last week's news, it's because you are. It's that increasingly common reaction by readers of print newspapers that's partly responsible for the slowly dying industry.

But that's not what made me want to blog about Grigsby's own blog post. It was the op/ed that she didn't have room to put in the print paper. After the jump, Steve Chapman's ode to slow reading.

Grigsby posted Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman's essay on his love of reading, "Fat Books and Slow Reading." Chapman likes thousand page books and likes to read them slowly to make them last even longer. This paragraph stood out for Grigsby:
I’m of the view that anything worth doing is worth prolonging and worth revisiting over and over. The best books are like the best romances: They last as long as you live.
Source: Steve Chapman.
I can't say I, too, read slowly to prolong the pleasure of reading, but I do appreciate a well-crafted sentence, a clever turn of phrase, an evocative metaphor. It's worth pausing to enjoy such writing before barreling on through the text to advance the plot.

I've thought this way since at least June, 1973, when an article in the Reader's Digest made an indelible impression on me. I'll let Dom David Foster tell the story, from his book Reading with God: Lectio Divina:
So we have to rediscover the art of reading and be happy to have our reading ability stretched, even to breaking point! In particular we need to learn to read slowly. A much quoted story comes from the Reader's Digest, which published an article in June 1973 by a businessman, Sidney Piddington, who had been confined three years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Singapore. In that time he discovered the 'special joys of super-slow reading' which is the title of the article. Trying to make his precious book last as long as possible, he disciplined himself to linger over each page and enter into the experience being described by the author. His reading fell naturally into the rhythm of listening and responding. As he described it: 'Sometimes just a particular phrase caught my attention, sometimes a sentence. I would read it slowly, analyse it, read it again, perhaps changing down into an even lower gear, and then sit for twenty minutes thinking about it before moving on." Not only did slowing down make the book last longer, but as a bonus Piddington discovered that the practice lifted him above the sordidness and senselessness of prison-camp life and put him in a more humane world; super-slow reading preserved his sanity, his human dignity and his inner freedom.
Here's to sanity, human dignity, and inner freedom. Here's to super-slow reading.

No comments: