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THE SCIENCE OF READING

I don’t read as much fiction as I wish I did.

Why not? The short answer is that I don’t have enough time, but that’s not really true. Yes, I’ve got a full time job, a family, and a writing career to juggle. But I also watch tv, chat with my friends, shop, and surf the internet. Couldn’t I use that time to read?

The answer is a resounding “no.” Why? Because I don’t just need “time” to read, I need blocks of time to read. This is a very bad habit that developed during my childhood, when I spent way too much time curled up with books – hours upon hours upon hours, in fact. The result was the block-of-time anomaly.

To explain, I’m going to have to use a little physics – the regular kind and the astro kind. So bear with me. (My undergrad degree is in sociology, my advanced degree is law, but I’ve picked up enough from sci-fi movies to be dangerous! That would be a good book: “All the Physics I Need to Know I Learned from Star Trek”)

But back to the anomaly.

By the time I’ve finished the very first paragraph in a novel, a mind-meld forms between me and the book. There are only two things that can naturally end the meld. Either I finish the book, or I give up on it.

Things that unnaturally end the meld, like real life interruptions, cause extreme distress to my nervous system. I can stop for a meal when necessary, although I prefer to just snack and read at the same time. And if the book is really long, I’ll stop for a night’s sleep, but I even avoid those interruptions as much as possible because they wreak a certain amount of havoc in/on my brain.

I used to think that reading the first page of a novel actually opened a “portal” into the ether, and the portal would only reopen once I finished the book. This was because, when I’m reading a good book, there is nothing else in my world but that book. Sounds don’t penetrate. The only light is the light that shines on the page. There’s no sense of time or place. In fact, the concept of time becomes inapplicable.

But of course, that theory was silly. It’s not a portal, or a wormhole or any such nonsense.

It’s a mind-meld.

Bottom line? I don’t start reading a fiction book unless I’m sure I’ve got a block of time in which to finish it without being disturbed. I’m a very fast reader – obviously I have to be! – but still, a normal size book takes some serious planning on my part. And longer books are reserved for vacations.

I’m so envious of my husband. He reads the way a cat – or baby – naps. Sometimes just for a few minutes, sometimes for hours and hours without a break. But he’s contented either way, and can read several books in a good week because of it, despite the fact that his job is extremely demanding, etc. I’d try to explain the phenomenon, but it’s outside my areas of expertise, since I don’t watch animal movies or even animal shows, aside from the Puppy Bowl. Hence, I don’t know the technical reasons that my husband reads like a cat.

If there are other reading styles out there, let me know. If you can explain the science behind your particular affliction, even better!

Kate

p.s. I also form a mind-meld with the book I’m currently writing, and I hate interruptions there too, but if it’s my creation , I can maintain the meld no matter what I’m doing, because a part of my brain keeps working on the story and chatting with the characters. That’s not so easy to do with someone else’s novel, and the danger of even trying is that I start making up things that happen in their book, and by the time I get back to reading it, I’m thoroughly confused about what really happened, fictionally speaking, and what only happened in my mind.

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