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Slow Reading

I had a strange experience this summer reading “Can You Forgive Her?” by Anthony Trollope. Like other nineteenth century writers whose work was serialized, it’s a very long book—800 some pages. I had picked it up in a bookstore, a delicious sensation but impractical for me. I have a bad back. How could I possibly carry that tome around? So I decided to download it onto my Kindle, for free I might add. Before I knew it, I had finished the book. I went back into the bookstore to check if the downloaded version—prepared by a group of volunteers—was abridged. It was not.

I keep a jottings book where I write reviews of books and movies. I sat down to write my “Can You Forgive Her Review?” and couldn't remember most of the characters or plot. This was alarming. The book is the first of the Palliser books and getting the first one under one’s reading belt is essential. Otherwise, lost.

Most of the e-reader readers I know tell me they read much faster on their devices than they do when they are holding a print book. Why is this? And is it a good thing?

I cannot answer the first question though I have heard a lot of theories: It takes time to turn the page, the electronic pulse has accelerated our brains, and so on. (If you’d like to add a theory, please comment here, electronically.)

As for the second question—is it a good thing?—I’d have to say, from my own experience, yes and no. Yes when I am reading a nonfiction work for information and perhaps skimming a bit. No when I am reading a work of fiction and want to slow down. I just can’t seem to slow down very easily on my Kindle. And I want to slow down. I need to slow down to savor the sentences, the words, the characters and the plot. I have to force myself to do this on my e-reader. I was very disconcerted at the speed in which I had “finished” the Trollope. Indeed, I hadn’t “finished” it because I didn’t remember most of it. So I went back into the bookstore for a third time, bought a delicious Penguin imprint copy of the book, and reread it slowly.

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