"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Notable Quote: Slow Reading by Richard A. Lanham

This comes from my read of Richard Lanham’s Style: an Anti Textbook.  Lanham has been on a discourse on prose rhythm.  To set up one of his points he contemplates the notion of speed-reading:  “And the speed-reading course is plain lunacy.  Its mere presence horrifies: reading is something to be gotten through.”

Here’s his developed thought:

Before prose rhythm can be sensibly considered, one must redefine reading.  It cannot be a jet flight coast-to-coast.  It must be a slow walk in the country, taken, as all such walks should be, partly for the walking itself.  Every course in composition ought to be a course in Slow Reading.  To read a prose text aloud, again and again, is the most important single act you can perform, if you are to understand its style.  As for rhythm, if you do not read aloud (at least with the mind’s ear), there will not be any.  Rhythm cannot be studied by itself, directly.  Until a text is read aloud there is no rhythm to study.  Of course we can silent-read for rhythm, but only if we have learned, paradoxically, how to read aloud silently.  Until you have explored this dimension of prose style, you will not know it is there.  Once you have explored it, you’ll find a passage of mumblespeak literally unreadable.  With luck, you may not write any more of it yourself. 

That is actually quite satisfying to hear.  I am a notoriously Slow Reader.  I savor sentences and rhythm.  I listen with my “mind’s ear” all the time.  Lanham also goes on to say that audio books are excellent vehicles for acquiring the nuances of English prose rhythm.  I love audio books.  But I listen to them in a very unconventional way.  I really don’t like listening to an audio book without the written words in front of me.  I can’t follow the sentence structures if I’m just listening.  What I love to do is listen to an audio book while I read.  This way I get a professional performer and reader to articulate the language.  With the words right in front of me, a great reader provides what might be for me the best form of entertainment possible.

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