Slow Reading or the Art of the Snail
Some books are better read slowly, I feel. They are carefully written. Each word is considered, held up to the light and inspected before being tweezered into place. That is the impression I have from watching a recent interview of Ian McEwan by Melvyn Bragg on the South Bank Show. It was a compilation of earlier interviews and in one of these he described how he would write in long hand on one sheet of paper and try out sentences on another. Maybe his techniques have changed now with the advent of the computer but I think there is evidence of such consideration in Solar. Listening to it on audio book forces the listener to 'read slowly'. I hear every word and the whole process takes hours. As a result I think I appreciate it more - and I am applying this to my own writing too - at least some of the time.
I used to monitor myself in terms of words written. I used to aim for two thousand and a day and used to be especially pleased with myself if I managed to accomplish six thousand. But I am wondering now if it is a good idea to count them at all. After all, one hundred words well written are better than ten thousand in a more mediocre order. I'm wondering too if that is a fundamental difference between literary fiction and genre fiction. In true literary fiction the words are considered nearly as much as those in a poem which is why they cannot be rattled out year after year. They have to be brooded over and revised. The words are there because they accurately convey feeling and impression rather than just drive forward the plot. They have been acquired slowly and are unlikely to be appreciated in this world obsessed with the number rather than quality of tasks completed. What seems to matter most now is that an ever-lengthening array of boxes is ticked - only to be filed away and forgotten. This sort of culture precludes true art and the acquisition of craft. It devalues anything that takes time and robs us of what is important - the tasks we complete slowly with fondness, even love.