Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Slow Reader

One of the pitfalls of working in the literary profession is that one is often required to read very quickly, even when the work itself requires slow reading. One of my remedies (and I have chosen that word specifically) to demon speed has been to read Proust, whose clauses need to be read slowly if one is to make any sense of the sentences. Reading needfully slow literature fast is a bad habit, but such "speed-reading" may also end up as a boon to the reading of new types of short-form literature.

Now along comes the digital Evelyn Wood. Those of you under the age of 50 may not know that Evelyn Wood's speed-reading course was made popular in the early 1960s because John F. Kennedy, Jr. boasted of reading at 1,200 words a minute after taking the course. If memory serves, after Evelyn Wood training, one read down the middle of the page, accumulating an understanding of key words and phrases. The claim was that comprehension did not suffer. Woody Allen once said, "I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It involves Russia."

Researchers writing for the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) have developed a method of highlighting thematically in digital texts so that one can skim, since, they say, that is how people "read" now anyway, cherry-picking only the ripe key words and phrases. Click here for a link to the PARC reference and the abstract. The article, by the way, is "controlled", meaning that you either need to take out a membership or purchase it.

P.S. By the way, this year is the centennial of Evelyn Wood's birth.

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