I love Francine Prose’sÂ Reading Like a Writer. Â Here’s her description of Close Reading:
“And as I wrote I discovered that writing, like reading, was done one word at a time, one punctuation mark at a time. It required what a friend calls â€œputting every word on trial for its life â€: changing an adjective, cutting a phrase, removing a comma, and putting the comma back in.
Prose, Francine (2009-03-17). Reading Like a Writer (P.S.) (p. 3). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
For the most part, this is how I read now and I prefer books that have to be read this way. Â Â But I had not read like this since since high school. Â And that because I was required to answer questions from the text. Â Unfortunately, I suspect Â the questions were designed to make sure we actually read the thing and not that we Â understood it. Â That would probably have been asking way more than hormone-challenged 17-year olds could manage.
So after graduation, Â I put away my classics, or took them to used book stores, and purchased books from Â various best-seller lists. Â And until Â I retired, mostÂ of my reading was for entertainment, or escape; Â easily digestible, plot-predictable, “chick-lit,” Â books that fit into my handbag, could be picked up from where I left off rushing to board the last flight, Â coffeeÂ alone at Starbucks, etc. Â Although for the most part, they had Â something to say, I give myself credit for that much discretion, and I usuallyÂ identified with them, or learned something. Â And I enjoyed them; still do. Â But their effects were short-lived. Â They did not change Â the way I thought or saw the world. Â Â Out of guilt, or curiosity, I periodically tried the latest Nobel or Pulitzer prize winner or a Â Dickens, Â Jane Eyre, Dostoyevsky, Â BronteÂ etc, but usually admitted defeat after a chapter or two.
But now, Â re-reading Â the same books, I get it. Â AlthoughÂ that literature is not for speed-reading should be self-evident,Â Â somehow I missed that as I sped through my revved-up life against a Â background of noise around us so pervasive that I no longer heardÂ it. Â Speed-reading literature Â would be as pointless as Â skateboarding through a Van Gogh exhibit or playing Bach on fast-forward. Â (Now that I think of it, I think someone actually has recorded a high speedÂ version of Bach’s Inventions!)
So here’s my challenge. Â I dare you. Find your favorite literature classic even if the last one you read was in high school. Â Even if it’s not your favorite, just the one you disliked the least. Â Take ten minutes to read the first page. Â Take even five minutes to read the first page. Â I think you will be amazed. I certainly was. Â But be warned: Â It couldÂ change the way you read, what you read and what you think.
Who knows what else?