Reading Slowly

I want to re-read The Lord of the Rings before continuing with The Hobbit Party. I’ve been slowly reading The Fellowship of the Ring.  As I started to dig in, I thought, “So this is what it’s like to read a book that wasn’t written for the sake of being made into a movie.”  It’s a book written to be a book.  I have been reading YA fiction (Divergent, The Maze Runner), fast-paced, plot-driven, dystopic novels.  I love the genre, but those books are not very good.  They needed one more editorial pass through, more plot-structure… the stories are good and the futuristic worlds are vivid, but the publishing seemed rushed so that the author and publisher could collect on the movie rights.

The Lord of the Rings, however, was written for readers who will spend many afternoons, basking in the sunshine, and absorbing the multi-layered narrative.

Neal Stephenson writes book-books.  Whenever I read Stephenson, I’m always surprised and delighted.  I feel like my brain gets a workout. That’s the point of reading: to be introduced to new ideas/worlds/concepts.  The fast-paced, plot-driven books are exciting, but they tend to feed me what I already know I like.  Reading The Fellowship of the Ring, for the first time in over 10 years, I’m having a hard time getting motivated to sit still for several hours to enjoy it– because several hours is what it will take.  I need to be willing to shut out my world: my Facebook arguments, the political news and commentary, my bills, my job search, my volunteer work… all of that has to be blocked out, so that I can focus on the journey with Frodo.

I get the sense that this kind of book isn’t what I need right now.  As an adolescent, I loved escaping into my books.  As an adult, I love my independent life– I don’t need to escape.  So why bother slogging through the trilogy?  Well, I want to find what the book offers besides escapism, maybe a better understanding of the English language, or Western culture.  Maybe I will enjoy the discipline of shutting out the world, taking in every sentence, reading slowly.

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