Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Why take it slow

Most of my life, I've been a speed reader. I'm not exactly sure how fast I read in terms of the number of words per minute; all I know is that I can go through a 400-page book in one afternoon. Of course, comprehension is another matter. If you read text in chunks, as I do when I speed read, you don't really get into the details. It's like a buffet—filling but not wholly satisfying taste-wise.

How I became a speed reader is a story in itself. When my younger brother was 9, my parents enrolled him in a speed reading course. He's not a big reader, my brother is. My parents probably thought that if he speed read, he'd still be able to finish books and still have lots of time playing or doing the usual, you know, boy stuff.

Anyway, my brother got sick on the first day of the course. I would never really know to this day if it was a real illness, or if it was just purely psychosomatic. And I will never understand why my parents didn't just take note of my brother's "illness" that day and force him to attend the following day.

The speed reading course was non-refundable and non-transferable. Bummer, my parents must have thought. Then they had this brilliant idea, which I now think to be a touch Hitchcock-ian. Clap, clap. (Sometimes, I feel unworthy to be their child.) For one summer, my 10-year-old self pretended to be Thomas, my younger brother. I believe I was the youngest in that class of 15. And it took me a while to respond when somebody called me Tom. So I just kept to myself and just immersed myself in all those speed reading exercises.

That summer changed my reading life. I've never looked back since.

Speed reading is extremely helpful. You go through all your class required reading in a matter of days. You can finish the newspaper in the morning, which is the only way to read it, methinks. Everything goes by in a flash. And you really have more time to do other stuff, which in my case is to read more stuff.

Lately, however, I've come to realize that perhaps it's time to it slow. Not just in reading but in most of my routine activities. What's the point of all this hurrying? Why do I need to rush things that I find enjoyable? It's bad enough that I have to constantly meet deadlines at work, so I don't want to make speed a de facto in other aspects of my life. So consciously I've been trying (with moderate success) to read more slowly, to take my time enjoying the food in front of me, to jot down things in a notebook, to walk more leisurely.

No matter how fast I read, I'm never going to read all these great works of literature. I've gotten comfortable having my to-be-read pile around. Besides, there are books that are worth every hour your spend with them—the flowery prose of Proust, the sublime poetry of Czesław Miłosz and Seamus Heaney (still my favorite poets), the Gothic romance of Jane Eyre, and the fluid narrative of José Saramago, just to name a few.

Let me tell you, dear reader, you do feel more relaxed when you deliberately take things slow. (I even noticed that my pores have become smaller.) More importantly, you get to enjoy your reading material more. Like this debut novel by Edan Lepucki, the post-apocalyptic California. This novel had quite a buzz going for it last year, especially after Stephen Colbert featured it in the light of that Amazon-Hachette debacle. Ergo, it jumped into the bestseller lists. The New York Times even said that it won the "literally lotto."

California is fantastic post-apocalyptic fiction. What sets it apart from other works in this genre is its deliberate pace. Lepucki focuses the story on how a couple, Frida Ellis and Calvin Friedman, survives in Los Angeles, which has now been totally devastated. It's a sad novel really; you know that things wouldn't really end well for our main characters. The world has become cruel, one where being pregnant is a liability and your acceptance to a community comes down to a vote.

There's a sense of dread in the pages of California. Lepucki never really discloses why the world has come to an apocalypse, which is a very good decision in my opinion. I felt a good mix of paranoia and horror reading it. Somehow, you get a sense that what's happening in California can really happen. I do hope that I'm dead when that time comes. I wouldn't last a second in there anyway.
My obsession over coloring books continues.
So happy that I finally have Johanna Basford's works.
These are quite difficult to find in bookstores lately.
Even my 8-year-old niece has taken to them coloring pages.
She has no fear of intricate and very detailed illustrations.
Speaking of slow, this took me more than 5 hours to color.
Not 5 straight hours though. Otherwise, calluses.
(From the Secret Garden coloring book)
I've also taken the habit of taking things slow to other small things. Last weekend, we went to a local crafts fair, and it gave me a few ideas to try out. I have no delusions of becoming the next Martha Stewart though.
Those pre-arranged bouquets can be quite expensive, so R opts to buy flowers in bulk.
Besides, I think he enjoys being a florist. Hehehehehe.
I bought this lime liqueur last weekend, and it's divine.
I am loving all things citrus lately—the refreshing scent, the clean taste, the vibrant colors.
I tried adding a splash of this liqueur to sparkling water.
My own "slow" fizzy lime drink without the sugar. Win.


Jack said...

"He who hurries cannot walk with dignity" ~ Chinese proverb.

Might I recommend The Fourth Tower of Inverness, a radio play from the early 70s available as a set of CDs from amazon.com? This is an audio LSD trip in which Jack Flanders visits his cousin who owns a castle near Inverness. Arriving outside, he sees three towers, but inside, there are four. The fourth is, of course, a fourth dimension of some sort, and in it he has a number of adventures including one in which he sits at a table with an old Brit who keeps telling him to relax. Drinks appear on the table out of nowhere, he can hear the murmur of voices, but the place is deserted... Until he finally slows down and relaxes, then he can suddenly see everybody! That's about the mildest of his adventures, and I'm sure there's a moral in there somewhere.

You take care, brother, and be safe, and whatever else happens, get out there and live life like you mean it!

Peter S. said...

Hello, Jack! I love that quote that you put in there! Very, very apt!

And I will take your suggestion and get a copy of that CD!

yccos said...

Coloring books! I love coloring books!

Peter S. said...

They are just wonderful books, yes? Can't get enough of them.