Sunday, 18 December 2016

SLOW READER AT WORK - in praise of the Reader's Digest.

I am lucky enough to be a relatively fast reader, which allows me to get through masses of "stuff" on the internet each week plus at least two full length books.  However, I came across this delightful item the other day and thought it might be of interest to others.

"All my life I have been the victim of a senseless and superstitious feeling that once I start to read something I must finish it verbatim.  There can be no turning over two pages at a time, no peeking ahead to see if there's a happy ending.  Possibly there lurks in my subconscious the fear that if I skim lightly through a printed work the author will turn up to haunt me in some nasty way.  Or it may be an exaggerated sense of guilt like the remorse one experiences after cheating at solitaire.

This conscientious thoroughness has resulted in a good many hours of ennui and the dubious satisfaction of knowing that I am fulfilling a cockeyed duty toward some writer who doesn't give a hoot anyway.  For I am a slow reader.  As a child I never learned the modern streamline method of absorbing an entire paragraph at a glance. My father was my instructor. We used a small yellow volume entitled "The Land of Song: Book One" and we lovingly spelled out each sentence, word by word, syllable by syllable.  I still catch myself muttering aloud over posers like "phthisis".  It takes me a week to read a novel and ten days for the average biography.  This naturally narrows down my selection of reading matter.

But now comes The Reader's Digest to keep me abreast of the times and to shrive my conscience.  The cutting and skipping has been done in advance by the editors - let the printer's ink be on their souls!  The pieces are of such compactness that even I can finish three or four in a taxi on my way to a party and arrive sparkling with information.

Looking back on the days when there was no Reader's Digest is much like looking back on the days when there was no such thing as air conditioning.  One wonders how one ever got along without it - at least this one does."

Written by Cornelia Otis Skinner - in 1944!!!  And produced here for the comfort of all slow readers, by Rosemary Kahn.

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