A Cunning Blog

Long words. Short words. Words that say something.

In defence of slow reading

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I’m doing an HDR. That’s a Higher Degree by Research to those of you not completely all over your TLAs. An MCA, to be precise, at UTS.

The idea of going back to study was not on my radar until a colleague and academic suggested, ever so gently, gently but persuasively, that it was time to stop writing 350 word reviews and 500 word previews (let alone 140 character tweets) in favour of something a bit longer, a bit more thoughtful. It was a wonderful suggestion. It still is. I am in love with the luxurious feeling of allowing my thoughts to spread, like a slowly melting ice-cream, across all areas of my consciousness, making new shapes and connections as they find new places to go.

The only fly in the ointment is that the rest of the world doesn’t seem to want to keep pace – a very slow pace — with me. Even the redoubtable University of Technology, Sydney, has been shoe-horning in the learning with brutal efficiency. Research week. Wall-to-wall seminars full of more-or-less useful study tips. Research study skills. Time management. Pre-seminar reading so we can get through all the material more quickly. OK, stop talking now, we’ve run out of discussion time, we must move on.

I’m not ready to move on. I am ready to be still. And that is why I am kicking back against my newly adopted alma mater’s helpful hints. I do not want to learn how to ‘speed read’. I’ve done enough speed reading for a lifetime. I’ve precis-ed Wagner’s Ring Cycle, for goodness sake. I have drunk knowledge from the firehose of the internet and come out gasping for air.

So now I make no apologies for any potential delays. I am a naturally fast reader. Fast and voracious. I gobble words. But for now, I am fighting my own habits and taking it slowly. I am chewing over phrases, letting words rattle around and hang in the air, until complete silence returns. (It’s a long wait for silence, and I’ve never quite managed to get there yet). I am relishing the clarity and intellectual acuity of Stefan Zweig. I am marvelling at Andrew Ford’s nail-on-the-headness. I’m savouring Janet Malcolm. I’m occasionally spitting things out. I am trying not to be overwhelmed by the need to read Everything That Has Ever Been Written before I can myself write.

I’m not sure where this will take me but I feel sure it will be interesting, if only I can hold back the forces of time. Watch this space.

Author: harryfiddler

Harriet Cunningham – aka @harryfiddler — is a freelance writer based in Sydney. Harriet wrote her first novel, about a runaway cat, at the age of 7. In the forty year gap between novel 1 and novel 2 she moved from London to Edinburgh to Sydney, ran an opera company, played violin on the opera house stage and sailed from Gove to Darwin. She is now a music critic and writer, best known as the critic who got banned by Opera Australia. She still hangs out at the Sydney Opera House, is still trying to get that novel published, and still plays the violin.

2 thoughts on “In defence of slow reading

  1. Excellent news – is there a title yet?

  2. Really lovely, a dream for me and if you can find out how to make the slowness work, please please let me know how you do it! Wayne

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