Bree Despain had some interesting tweets the other day about being a slow reader. This one in particular stood out.
I always want to ask people who read multiple books in a day if they really "get" what they read. Some don't even remember story days later.
— Bree Despain (@breedespain) December 28, 2013
I tried to respond on Twitter, but 140 characters is impossible to convey meaning. I'm a fast reader. I read books in a few hours in one sitting. Sometimes when you do something, the thought of doing it differently doesn't even come to mind. That's why I was surprised to see her tweet.
I read fast. It's weird because I've done those tests that have you read a page in your head and they time you, and I've gotten normal, even low scores. When it comes to books or long text in general I can read very fast. Some people ask whether you can truly understand what you're reading if you're doing it so fast.
I'd like to say yes. My ego would enjoy that, but the truth is that I forget the books I read. I've written about my book amnesia before and it's a little embarrassing to forget even the books that I love. It's just a side effect of the way I read.
I'm great at focusing on only one thing. I can put all my passion and attention and focus single mindedly on one thing. I can read in any environment, no matter how loud it is or how much I'm moving. So when I read, all my attention is put on a book.
I get lost in the book. The words don't matter. They blur by. Not even consciously, during action scenes, I find myself almost skimming the words as the action takes place in my head in real time. However, I'm not a visual reader. I don't imagine things as they look like a movie, I imagine the sense of it. The details are so important to some people, and sometimes details are important to me too, but only to give me a sense of the story. It's a little hard to explain.
If for example, I read about someone punching someone else, it's not a fist flying that I see but the emotions, the anger, the pain, the confusion, and the hysteria. And when I sum it up, I won't remember it as someone punching someone else. I remember that a fight happened.
So it's really the essence of what happened that matters to me, and when I slow down and focus on the details, it kills the overall. You know when you're in school and you have to find the theme or thesis of something? I'm awesome at that because it's always what happens overall that I pick out. The day-to-day details don't stick.
When I'm reading, it's like I'm in the world. I'm the characters going through the crap they go through and I don't process what's happening, it's more like I experience it. When a story is good, I connect with it to the point where for a few hours, I don't even think about me. It's like I'm dreaming but I'm awake. And when I finish the book after such a blistering pace, the story is done with me and it feels like I woke up. Like I've been sleeping or gone to another world and I've finally reappeared.
When people try to call me when I'm reading a book, it usually takes a few tries for them to get to me. There's also that feeling after being sucked out of the story where I wonder what I'm doing. When I don't finish the book, it burns inside me, especially when it's a good book. Everything I do, everywhere I go, all I think about is that I'm not done. The book hasn't released me from its hold and I'm in a kind of in between state.
I can't read two books at once and commit myself to both of them. I always end up treating one like a textbook while the other is like another life. I'm just so into whatever I read.
I resent it being thought that I don't 'get' a book because I read it fast. I experience it differently. The words honestly don't matter to me because it's the characters and plot that truly reign supreme in my view. Maybe I understand the story differently because I only analyze it when it's done and I look at the sum rather than the parts. That's the way I am. I look at the forest more often than the trees.
It's like my heart stops when I'm so engrossed with something and I do it until it's done and finally I can take a break and life goes on. It's the same when I write. Reading fast is just a part of me and they way I do things. What about you?