Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Read in the Wind

[posted by Callimachus]

I suspect every lover of reading will relate to this.

The role of literature is to mess with time, to establish its own time, its own rhythm. A new agenda for literary studies should open up the time of reading, just as it opens up how the writer establishes his or her rhythm. Instead of rushing by works so fast that we don't even muss up our hair, we should tarry, attend to the sensuousness of reading, allow ourselves to enter the experience of words.

You remember those books? The ones you didn't want to end, and because you felt that you slowed yourself down, not reading that next chapter tonight, even though you had time. Re-reading a chapter before going on to the next one, because it was so fulfilling. (In Stendhal's day, concert orchestras played each movement twice before going on to the next, so the audience could feel it, and feel it again. Kundera would get that at once.).

The article is about education, but I think schools can't do this. Have you ever observed a "free reading" period in some elementary classroom, and seen the teacher order everyone to close the book now and go on to math or whatever the next thing is? See that girl who just doesn't want to stop reading now, but has to. Yet what else can a teacher do?

When I see stories about some elementary school class reading 100 books in a week or something so they can win some prize, I don't think that's reading, any more than some skinny Japanese guy stuffing 25 hot dogs into his craw in a minute is "eating."

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