Pond Life and Skimmers

I have pondered over this watery conundrum for the past few days: ‘why has the level on the ponds dropped by at least twelve inches when the river has risen by about eighteen?’ Some of the outer sections have become isolated, as mud banks have been uncovered. One isolated sub-pond was so isolated that it had just one mallard drake with two ducks; I wish him luck with that marital arrangement.

On a different topic, my e-mail turned up with some excitement this morning. My electronic voting form for the ALCS arrived. I hadn’t received any checks lately and so had forgotten that I was a member. Checks are a wonderful ‘aide de memoire’. Maybe this is why my short-term memory isn’t what it used to be – I think.

The Autumn ALCS News ( http://www.alcs.co.uk/news/the_shallows.html ) has an interesting preview of a Nicholas Carr book, ‘The Shallows’. I started to skim through Sanderson’s preview and had got my Kindle booting up and online to check if a Kindle edition was available, when I skimmed a section that was pointed out how even e-Readers encourage shallow reading. That stopped me. I realized that I had become a better skimmer than a pool–boy. These days I flit around the web gathering small nuggets lying in plain sight like an old time gold prospector.

Remorse took over and I went back to the start of the preview and read ‘properly’ so that, as my high school teachers used to say, ‘read, study and inwardly digest’. I’m not sure that I’d got to the ‘digesting’ stage when, although I sympathized totally with the concept that our work should be carefully and completely read, I began to think that the phenomenon of skimming started way before the Great Digital Era.

‘Speedreading’ was just for busy CEOs when I grew up, so I will ignore that as an odd gene mutation required to become a captain of industry. More pertinent, I read my first ‘Reader’s Digest Condensed Book’ too many years ago to count reliably. Even longer ago, I can remember getting condensed classics in school deemed to be suitable for 10 – 12 year-olds. Many of these, I haven’t felt the need to read in full unexpurgated form to date. I had better not mention the movies as this is inevitably skimming ‘par excellence’.

Skimming has clearly been going on for some time. But it is interesting to think of this in terms of the advice that we read in instructional tomes on the craft. I will leave you with one quote from Arthur Quiller-Couch given in Roy Clark’s ‘Writing Tools’ (Little, Brown & Co, 2008) – ‘Murder your darlings’. 

One Response so far.

  1. jazgal says:

    Ah, skimming. I grew up on a diet of Reader's Digest Condensed books, and it was several years before I realized that they were but a shallow respresentation of the the originals, whereupon I started off with the real deals and found them much, much more satisfying to read. Prior to that, of course, was the collection of Classics Illustrated that my cousins had - I did get 'round eventually to reading the real deals on a good many of those, but a certain fondess remains for those early presentations.

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