god, I've been reading and studying so much lately. I do think I'm getting a bit faster at reading, which is great, because normally I'm painfully slow and I get distracted and have to reread whole paragraphs, stuff like that. I daydream all the time while I'm reading, maybe I'm trying to imagine the author sitting down to write the piece I'm reading, or imagine some of the experiences that may have pushed her to write the words on the page before me. I try to empathize, but myself in her shoes… relate her experiences to my own, in order to better understand and internalize the material. I have always done it with fiction – imagine the characters, visualize them, give them whole visual references right down to their surroundings. I have always hated books that had too much descriptive detail, and those that did not have enough – I needed detail enough to fuel my imagination, but too much ruined the fun.
Now, as I am reading much non-fiction, I am still visualizing, still picturing the character whose voice I am reading – only now, it isn't a character at all, but an author, and it's quite serious! Now I am picturing the author, sitting, typing, researching, pouring out her life's work and her beliefs onto the page for me to judge, to accept or reject. it seems so much more personal. the judgements I make now are about the author, rather than the characters – although in a way, it is splitting hairs, but for me, I was always able to separate the characters from the author, much like separating the actor from the character she plays.
I have loved reading since I was a little girl. My mom likes to tell the story about how I wanted to read so badly that I convinced myself I had learned all on my own. I had a book on tape, a Disney story that came with the audio cassette and the book, and I had memorized it word by word. I knew when to turn the pages because the tape would sound "beep!" to remind sleepy parents (and budding self-taught two year old readers!) that another page was finished. When I proudly told my mother that I had learned to read, she asked for a demonstration of my new talent, and I proceeded to bring out the book and recite the entire story – complete with Scotty dog Scottish accents and, of course, the "beep!" that signified a page turn! She broke the news to me that I could not yet read – not gently, either, she was laughing her head off – and I indignantly demanded that she teach me, then. And so she did; I was reading just before my thrid birthday, and I haven't stopped since. One of the greatest gifts my mother gave me was teaching me the love of a good story, how to become enraptured by picturing each scene, how sometimes the characters become so dear that you don't want the book to end. I remember one magical summer when I first read what has become my favourite book, the Neverending Story. I couldn't put it down, yet I loved the world that was unfolding in my imagination, and I relished each section so much that I dragged the book out for the entire 2 months, even though I was reading every day all day. I really wished it was the neverending story. The next summer, I read it again.
I think that reading is as active as any other activity is, and that there is a responsibility on the part of the reader to be careful with the words laid out before them by the author. to passively skim a book doesn't work for me. I have a need to be respectful – books have gone through so many edits and reconfigurations, so much work and passion has gone into it, I just can't be casual about reading it. and so, I sit, daydreaming about what I've just read, picturing everything in my mind's eye, trying to interpret it in a way that will resonate with me, so I can carry it with me as I do so many of my favourite novels. a good story never really leaves you.