Raman admits he's a slow reader too :
I can't read more than one hour at a stretch -- I will have to get up, go for a walk, get a drink, eat something, and then come back to the book. It took me two weeks to finish reading Milan Kundera's The Curtain and JM Coetzee Diary of a Bad Year, but I was reading other books at the same time. But typically I take about two weeks to finish a book unless it is one of those huge tomes, which I largely avoid these days anyway.He was responding to Michael Henderson in the Telegraph writing about novelist/critic Philip Hensher's claim :
... that he had read five novels a week, every week, since he was five years old. As he is in his 43rd year, that means he has read at least 9,880 novels in his well-thumbed life.Is it possible? I think perhaps it is. The fastest reader I know is a friend I used to teach with, who can dispatch a literary novel in an evening and talk about it in depth the next morning. I wouldn't be surprised if she could equal Hensher's total.
But I'm not like that. Nor is Henderson who goes on :
What a relief it was, last year, to learn of Milan Kundera's opinion that he based his reading on the premise that he got through books at the rate of 20 pages an hour. How the Society of Slow Readers enjoyed that confession!Even if I could physically read faster, I don't think that I would want to ... I find I need non-reading time in between chapters, in between books, to let the words knock around in my head and examine them. Even when I'm not actually sitting there with the book in my hands, I still keep visiting the world created by that book and examining its effect on me. That's my excuse anyway.
There are those who read quickly, but many more, I fancy, are closer to Kundera's estimation than Hensher's. Keen reader that I am, I reckon I have done pretty well if, having spent three hours with a book, I have got through 100 pages.
Once I regretted being a slowcoach. Now I am content with my lot. It's like a cricketer building an innings. If a book is worth reading, it must be absorbed, sentence by sentence, which often means re-reading paragraphs if they are tricky - or if they are delightful. If others are able to zip through books, skimming the pages, it is a matter for them.
Francine Prose who recommends savouring books rather than racing through them, is of course entirely right. Prose' list of "117 books to be read immediately" can be found online on bookofjoe's blog.
(Pic is The Readers 111 by homo_sapiens on Flickr)