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.
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