There’s slow food, slow money, and now slow reading. The Guardian recently published an article by Patrick Kingsley on The Art of Slow Reading that has been making its way around the webosphere. Kingsley and other slow readers advocate for finishing the texts we start. They want us to borrow and lend books, to read aloud, to not click blindly from hyperlink to hyperlink.
I’m a fan of slow food, of taking my time in gathering and preparing and eating. I even practice slow money, though it’s due to the size of my paycheck more than any particular ideals. Practicing slow food would mean something different for a chef than for my home cooking. Slow money on Wall Street? That’s truly radical. Slow is a luxury. It balks at demands and bedtimes and to-do lists.
Tracy Seely, an English professor in San Francisco and another proponent of slow reading wrote earlier this summer that she would be behind on writing her blog (about the slow reading movement) because she had to can 600 plums from her backyard. What irony! I’m not sure if Seely is also into slow food though growing her own plums could indicate that she is. Nonetheless, anyone who has tried to remain committed to slow whatever knows that sometimes the work piles up. Sometimes you have to go at it more frantically than you’d like. Sometimes you find your eyes racing line upon line to finish that chapter or book before the clock displays numbers that should only be seen by the intoxicated.
Recently, my optometrist prescribed reading glasses for me. I’m not even thirty, and I reach for my close-up specs before I begin to consume words. The optometrist said it’s not age, but a lifestyle choice. It’s true: I’m a promiscuous reader. I read blogs, newspapers, poetry, petitions and prose. I read tabloids and lit mags. I read Facebook updates and Twitter feeds. I read over people’s shoulders. I read for typographic style. I read because when words are everywhere, what else can I do?
For me, after hours of reading for work, I take off my reading glasses and massage the marks they left on the sides of my nose. On my commute home, I put on big, squishy headphones and turn on an audiobook or a podcast. I let someone else set the pace at which I take in words. It’s nostalgic to hear someone tell a story, even if it requires wires and batteries and a digital apparatus. The nostalgia lasts for about an hour, depending on traffic and the aggressiveness of the bus driver.
It’s true that the mechanisms that help us slow down aren’t always as romantic as are the ideals of going slow. A study found that those who use e-readers actually read more slowly than those who read books – iPad users read 6.2% more slowly than those who read printed books and Kindle users read 10.7% more slowly. While electronic gadgets are advertised to increase productivity, is the slowing down actually a hidden perk?
While there’s a movement to unplug, it’s not necessarily contiguous with the movement to slow down. The ways we go slower—when we choose to indulge in slow—isn’t as important as focusing and purposefully changing our pace.
I’ll take up Kingsley’s challenge to slow down even more in my consumption of words. I’ll head to my library and borrow an audiobook, so someone new can tell me a story.
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