Friday, October 9, 2009

The Bane of Being a Slow Reader

This post is for all those writers (and also to that regularly sends me free books) for taking so long to review your books. It's time I confessed. I am just an extremely slow reader. This is the bane of my existence as in most cases I do not agree to review books because I feel I should, but because I really want to. I want to see what my cyber-friend has been working on for the last two years or the memoir written by the gal whose essay I edited three years ago. And then there are those three or four books I find in the newsletter each month from the Vine program Amazon invited me to join last year. Even with piles threatening to topple on either side of my laptop I keep asking for more.

One article I read recently attributed slow reading to a mild form of dyslexia. People like me read slowly because, if we didn't, the words would get mixed up in our brains. I do read one word at a time. While, apparently, faster readers read word groupings.

When I was in grade school in the 60s speed reading was all the rage. Mainly because President Kennedy was a known speed reader. My Dad, also a slow reader, bought a kit with this contraption on which a little window––resembling a mail slot––sprung open revealing groupings you were supposed to read all at once. As you improved you were supposed to read longer groupings at a faster pace. Both my Dad and I would go back to it from time to time with the best of intentions, then get bored or frustrated and give up again.

When I was in sixth grade our middle school (called junior high school at the time) invested in a newfangled mechanism that projected words on the screen. The teacher could adjust the timing and then we'd be tested on our comprehension. Of course, since we did it as a class, we were supposed to raise our hands at the point it moved too fast for us to read, (which no one did), so I will never know if the other kids really could read at that super speed or if it was just me. All I know is I might as well have been reading a foreign language, and I felt like a huge failure, even though reading at my own pace I always gained high marks in comprehension.

That emphasis on speed reading skills seems to have died a well-deserved death, but still, for the sake of those whose books I review, and for my own sake, since there are so many books, both fiction and nonfiction I'm dying to read, I'd like to read faster. Well, actually, I would and I wouldn't.

This topic arose in a forum I participated in several years ago on the above mentioned Amazon when citizen reviews were a brand new idea. I learned there that many of the "fastest" readers really skimmed. That got me thinking about how all the best writers labor over every word. I myself, though I am certainly not one of the best writers, revise and revise and revise, not just cutting words but replacing them with others. Good writers look not just for meaning but the sound of words. All that work, so that someone can skim what they wrote and report back on the story? That seems a great waste of talent.

So really maybe an apology is not in order. Yes, I can understand why my writer friends would like as many reviews out there as soon as possible, but know that I am giving your work the attention all that sweat you put into it deserves. I am reading every single word for both meaning and sound, and when I review your book it won't be just about what you wrote but how you wrote it.


Angie Ledbetter said...

Slow = thorough.

Thanks for the email forward the other day.

Diane said...

I am a skimmer.... embarrassingly admitted. Sorry! :O)

Lady Glamis said...

I am a slow reader, too. I like to think of it as being careful and caring. I'm also a very slow writer. We can be slow together. :)


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