Halfway Through A Good Book
I’ve always had a slight problem with reading – I read the books I enjoy most very slowly. This becomes tricky when I’m reviewing novels or judging books for awards. And there are some writers – I won’t mention names – who write as if their words were housebricks, and I keep stubbing my toes on their sentence structures so that they literally become unreadable.
Often, these writers are the least developed in terms of sentence structure or word usage, so that in many cases I find it easier to read more complex novels than, say, a supermarket novel. Recently, I read ‘Boxer, Beetle’ by Ned Beauman, a book which a friend described as unreadable, and I breezed through it (very odd plot, but the guy has a great career ahead of him).
Now, here’s where it gets interesting; I also have trouble matching my sleep-times with my partner. Like my brother Steven, I virtually pass out soon after it gets dark and wake when it’s light – always have done. If you live with a ‘night person’, you know how difficult this can be. I’ve always assumed that my brother and I manufacture melatonin at very set times.
Now, it turns out that someone else has exactly the same problem, but he’s taught himself to control his sleep patterns here. But what has that got to do with reading?
Well, I just discovered that I can read faster and more easily on an eReader (I can’t get the books I want, but that’s another story). Now I need to add another element; I was listening to a Radiolab podcast about a runner who suffered seizures. After she had a chunk of her brain removed she found her running improved, until she could manage a hundred-mile run with hardly any sleep.
What had happened was that most of her temporal lobe had been cut out, and when she runs she can no longer think of how far she’s come, or how far she has to go. She loses track of everything except her breathing and the pace of her feet. Reading on the eReader has suddenly made all books easier to read, and I’m wondering if it’s because I am no longer aware of how far I’ve gone or how far I have to go. Because with an eReader you live in the page moment.
Friends always complain that I’m overly aware of the time. I’m hardly ever late for anything, and always like watches and clocks around me. But in the same way that melatonin regulates the diurnal waking pattern, the removal of time-awareness in the process of reading seems to improve reading comprehension and speed.
It might also go some way toward explaining my love of computers and working on screens – I’m not filling a journal, and so a time element is removed. Go figure. The Radiolab episode is called ‘In The Running’.
QUIZ: The photo is mimicking a still from a European movie – which one?