On Speed Reading
Posted April 19, 2014on:
I’ve always been a little jealous of how fast my Mom can read. Books she zips through in two days will take me over a week to read. She finally admitted the other day that she’d taken a speed reading course in college, and I jokingly responded with “that’s cheating!”. Another friend in the conversation defended the speed reading course, because she’d taken the same one, and she said that this particular famous speed reading course taught one how to quickly get the most important information out of sentences and paragraphs. Presumably so you weren’t wasting your time on the unimportant stuff.
so, that assumes there is unimportant stuff?
And all I could think of was Catherynne M. Valente’s Prester John books, The Habitation of the Blessed, and The Folded World. Her prose in those novels reads like a stained glass window, where as the sun moves through the sky, the colors shift in the window, giving an illusion of continual movement and shadow as the story unfolds in the rainbow race of color across the floor and over your body. And on the other side of that stained glass window a symphony orchestra, complete with leitmotifs, counterpoints and returns, movements, and five or ten minutes of that gorgeous grey noise of pure potentiality when everyone is warming up before the conductor takes to the stage.
I realize I sound little melodramatic and over the top. And I do understand that when I say “that sounds like a sunset”, or “that sounds like purple”, that I am not actually seeing a sunset or that color (or seeing them consistently), but my brain is telling me those are the only words in my vocabulary that match what I’m experiencing at that moment. There is certainly an element of metaphor happening here, but there is also my complete confidence that those adjectives and phrases are the rightest ones.
For example, Shania Twain’s singing voice sounds like the color orange. I’m not seeing orange when I hear her voice, but in my brain, that is the adjective that best fits what I’m hearing. Singing voices tend to sound orange or like shades of blueish-purple, and men’s singing voices often taste like metal. I think there’s something to it that orange and blue are complimentary colors. Although Maluka’s voice sounds like sandstone, which isn’t part of the color wheel at all, so um, there’s that.
Which the long way around brings me back to: If I was speed reading, how much of would I miss? Would the stained glass window become simple clear leaded glass? Would there be no sun moving behind it, no movement of colors on the floor for me to chase after? Would the symphony be reduced to only the brass section, or just a string quartet, or one very bemused yet confusingly lonely oboe?
My Mom gets through way more books that I do. But I’ll keep my slower pace, thanks.