Sunday 30 June 2013

Some reading habits

In novels with with multiple plot strands – one set in the past, say; one in the present; one involving a dog – I find myself skim-reading one strand because I’m more engaged by another. And then something interesting happens in the strand I’ve been almost skipping, and I have to weigh up whether it’s going be worth going back and reading that strand again with proper attention.

With some novels – the big Russian ones are obvious examples – I can get to the end and still not know how to pronounce the names of some of the main characters.

Early in a reading, maybe even when browsing, I check the last page. Not always, but sometimes. Suspense I can take or leave. With any book I take pleasure in reading, knowing how it ends doesn’t spoil that pleasure.

In a poetry book that includes certain poems that I’ve read before in magazines and liked very much, I find myself favouring those poems over the others, at least in part because of a sense of familiarity.

Submissions: the work I get sent by writers who’d like to publish with CBe. Usually I look at these immediately, and I know within a few sentences or lines whether I want to read on. If I don’t, I try to delay my reply for at least a few days, so that the sender can preserve the illusion that I’ve read the whole book, on which they may have laboured for years.

Literature allows its audience more freedom in how they engage than any other art form. And most of the options offered by new technology – now/later, fast-forward, rewind, pause, select, highlight, portability and choice of location – have for centuries been afforded by the printed book: everything else is just catching up.

(PS. If you happen to be in or near London, come to the CBe/Eyewear Publishing pop-up shop at 201 Portobello Road: open every day from tomorrow morning, 1 July, to next Sunday, and selling our own books and those of Arc, Five Leaves, Flipped Eye and some extras. They’re not even expensive, these things called books; around the price of pack of cigarettes.)

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