The Case for Slower Reading

October 11, 2011

Now that I’ve managed to download my three novels to Kindle, I’ve been reading the e-versions straight through, trying to judge them as if somebody else wrote them. The print versions came out in 2003 (Secretarial Wars), 2007 (The Rock Star’s Homecoming), and 2010 (Let’s Play Ball). It’s been quite a while since the final pre-publication read-throughs. While I can’t say such distance allows total objectivity, it’s a different perspective than the eye-glazing, last-minute proofreading I did when my main goal was to get rid of them and move on to something else.

Even after all that proofreading, including professional editing, they are not as error-free as they should be. A few formatting mistakes are to be expected in this new digital age. Grammatical slip-ups, while few in number, are grating. But on the whole, the digital revisits gave me the gratified feeling that for the most part, I realized the vision I had for each novel.

I wrote the kinds of books I like to read, but I suspect I’m not a typical modern reader. My idea of literary heaven is not an action-packed adventure story, but a leisurely tale with many characters. For example, Gail Godwin’s rich, complex tales about Southern families have incidents, but they serve mainly to delineate the characters. The characters are people you might meet on the street: not vampires, werewolves or zombies. One review of Let’s Play Ball accused me of losing control of the plot. I guess I’m guilty of losing this reader, but I maintain that the plot was sustained in the interactions between the characters from beginning to end. The reader lost patience. It takes time for these stories to unfold, and this is an impatient age.

The best part of self-publishing for me is that I can indulge my preference for character development over action. I advocate more careful reading for everyone, but it seems to be out of style. Slowness of plot would surely doom anyone trying to break into traditional publishing these days. But now a certain impatience has overtaken the self-publishing world as well. People are downloading hundreds of books at a time. Does that really allow enough time to absorb each story and to let it unfold?