See all posts
3 July 2011 ·

Reading, slow and savoury

After procrastinating for years, I’m finally reading Proust in French: Du cote de chez Swann, (Swann’s Way) the first book of Remembrance of Times Past – the one in which the famous madeleine is dipped into tea to bring back a flood of memories, almost reliving, of his childhood. It’s not an action book, to put it mildly. It’s a rich and sensuous book, about sensuous experiences – including reading. It swept me back into remembering the way I read as a child, with such total, visceral immersion that I still associate different smells or tastes, as well sounds or images, with different books.

And some of the reason that I’m identifying so profoundly, or stopping to smile and savor the beauty of a phrase (despite being occasionally overwhelmed by the length of a sentence) is because I’m reading slowly.

I learned to read and write in French before English, but that was a long time ago. Reading something as dense as Proust,with paragraphs that may extend for a couple of pages of small print,and occasional words that aren’t in my dictionary,needs concentration. There’s no point in bolting through it to find out what happens, because not very much does. The point is in the reading itself.

And that reminds me why I write, as well as why I read: the passion of totally immersing myself in another world, and being lost in the music of the words that take me there. I’ll try to remember that when I start Caleb’s Crossing for book group, instead of gulping it down in a couple of evenings,rushing to finish in time as I’m often guilty of doing.


  1. Playing by the book I shall do the same - make a conscious effort to savour rather than simply consume!
    July 4, 2011 at 8:36 am · Reply
  2. Wendy As keen readers, we've probably created part of our identity about how fast we read, how many books we get through - so slowing down takes some rethinking!
    July 4, 2011 at 11:14 am · Reply
  3. Tristan Bancks I'm deeply impressed Wendy. And thanks for the reminder to slow down and immerse. I will do that now, several hours writing with wifi switched off. Strikes fear into my heart just to type those words but you've inspired me. Thanks. T
    July 8, 2011 at 10:19 am · Reply
  4. Wendy It's a bit scary how scary it is to think of being without wifi even for a few hours!
    July 8, 2011 at 10:28 am · Reply
  5. Tristan Bancks You'll be pleased to know that I survived and had a really great session, finding the way to finish my current ms. Each time my concentration broke, rather than being tempted to check something webbish I just sat with it. It's in those moments that you dive deeper and the story becomes richer. Now I just need to maintain that restraint each day. Boo to the web (sometimes). ;-)
    July 8, 2011 at 9:10 pm · Reply
  6. Wendy Tristan, that's not only profound, but profoundly inspiring!
    July 8, 2011 at 9:14 pm · Reply
  7. Tristan Bancks ;-) Thanks Wendy. T
    July 11, 2011 at 7:54 pm · Reply
Add a comment

← Back to all posts

Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio