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What I'm reading

From Dawn to Decadence: 500 years of Western cultural life, 1500 to the present, by Jacques Barzun, is a dense yet leisurely look at what makes us us. It's all so entwined that I can't pick out one thread of story or biography without damaging the whole tapestry, perhaps because I am reading it so slowly that I am probably losing the narrative arc.


I never thought of this before but I wonder if the speed at which one reads a book has any bearing on how you think about it. I don't mean speed as in pages per hour but how much you read per session or per day, & whether you take breaks. I know that if I put down a novel for any length of time, I can't remember much when i come back. Most of the time I'm not sure that that matters, even when it's a mystery, that is, even when plot is essential. I think I like coming back with big mistakes, getting the wrong idea & essentially collaborating with the author's general outline while supplying my own gloss. 


i'm thinking of Elizabeth Bishop's poem "Crusoe in England," which I must have read a page of & put it down for a while.When I came back I picked up where I'd left off & forgot the title. I somehow believed it was about someone alone on Fire Island. When Friday came, things understandably picked up. When Friday got the measles, it suggested the narrator wasn't sure she was so happy having her privacy disturbed. I forget what finally happened that made me suspect I had something wrong, but until then everything fit with the storyline I'd devised. 

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