It took me years to learn how to skim a book. As a boy I slowly read each page. Not only would I read a book more than once, I would read a page and then go back and read it again. The Count of Monte Christo was an early favorite.
Today I say with pride that I read books only once. Second readings have gone the way of the bicycle and possibly for a similar reason. Not peer pressure as it was with the bike, but certainly peer competition. I wanted to read more and faster than anyone else. It made perfect sense to me that in order to maximize my knowledge it necessitated multiple books. Reading one book, however thorough, was like wearing blinders to other possibilities of learning.
Francine Prose shocked me out of my perfection. On page 19 of her book Reading Like a Writer, she emphatically says, “Skimming just won’t suffice if we hope to extract one fraction of what a writer’s words can teach us about how to use language.”
The week after was one of the busiest weeks of their lives. Even when they went to bed, it was only their bodies that lay down and rested; their minds went on, thinking things out, talking things over, wondering, deciding, trying to remember where….
Francine points out that in the first sentence “there is no object for the temporal proposition.” She then goes on to explain Katherine’s intentionality of omitting this for the success of the story. Francine makes the point that skimming would not pick up on this.
I would love to write like Katherine. To a lesser extent, I would like to read like Francine, but only if it could be done by skimming to which she strongly suggests it cannot. I haven’t yet read the rest of the Mansfield story. I downloaded it for free from one of several websites that offered it.