In the famous Aesop’s fable of the Tortoise and the Hare, the two figures go for a race. The hare gets so far ahead that he stops before he finishes to take a little nap. While he sleeps, the tortoise keeps going. The hare wakes up to realize that he’s behind, and though he runs as fast as he can, he still loses the race he should have won.
Usually, I read at rabbit-speed. I’m just a naturally quick reader, and depending on the reading level and the type size and whether I’ve read the book before or not, I can polish off about 100 pages an hour. I have been known to read multiple books in a day, and not little 150 page things, either.
So I’ve been a little frustrated with myself at the speed at which I’m polishing off the classics I’ve set for myself to read. I think I’ve finished two in the last seven weeks. Now, I’ve read about 12 other books (including a lot of graphic novels), so it’s not like I haven’t been reading.
Classics take time. No, they assume time. That is, until the 1950s or even later, writers of books in general knew that you had the time to read these books. There was no Netflix, or TV. People just read – for fun, for knowledge, as groups and individuals. Thus, they are linguistically complex. They demand a slower pace of reading; the plot is more dense, the descriptions packed, the important moments easy to pass by.
This feature makes classic works lasting; it is what makes them challenging. Classic works are classics partly because they have enough in them that after one or three or seven hundred years people can still find new things to say about them. They don’t stop speaking.
Unfortunately, this means they take time to listen to.
So if you wonder where I’ve gone, no worries. I’m just over here reading at turtle pace, working towards the finish line.