Saturday, May 31, 2008

the ways we read

If you got The Age today and love reading books, flick to page 3 of "A2 Culture and Life" and have a squiz at Kate Holden's beautiful piece on the different ways we read books. Here's what she says:

I have just emerged blinking from several glorious months dediated to a single trove of books, Patrick O'Brian's Napoleonic war novels, including Master and Commander, which was adapted into a film by Peter Weir. For week after week after week, enthralled, I learnt and loved the characters as I witnessed them growing older, enduring, exploring and sometimes expiring. What a marvellous experience! Finishing this flowing sequence of novels ... brings me a sense almost of grief. It has been joy to immerse myself so utterly in another world, and to experience the careful development of sublime authorship over 20 books.

By contrast, my friend Beth never approaches a book from start to finish. She's a voracious and astute reader. But Beth likes her reading to be an adventure. She'll open the book near the end; sample a few pages, then flick through to a chapter in the middle, and slowly work her way back and forth around the book until she's satisfied she's got the best flavour of it. ... She starts with Anna Karenina's demise, and works backwards to find out why. A true post-modern girl. ... Life is a rush; quite probably Beth gets just as much - or more - from her gypsy wandering.

I read like Kate, not Beth: doggedly, from start to finish. And I can relate to the feeling of grief which comes at the end of an epic series of novels.

Reading is my favourite and my best. Which is why my most loved romantic comedy will always be You've Got Mail. "So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around?"

And I'm going to go and borrow Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander from the library again. Time to get "the wind back in my sails."

1 comment:

mattnbec said...

I think there's a twist on the second style of reader. The "buffet reader". The buffet reader reads as though they're at a buffet meal - they have a little of this and a little of that on their plate. They might finish it, but they might not. They 'eat' something for a time but once the interest in it dies they move on. Skim reading is often involved too, I think.

A friend used the term to describe my reading style. I'm even more like it now that I have small people in my house. Finishing a book is a significant achievement for me. I think it's partly that I lack discipline. But I also figure that reading certain chapters and skim reading lots is better than never reading anything because I know I'm not likely to finish it.