The Art of Reading

Every now and then you come across a statement in a book review that, normally, you'd just skate over. I had one of those moments over the weekend when reading Nigel Krauth's review of a new novel.

Steve Toltz's A Fraction of the Whole is as heavy as a dumbbell. It weighs 1.05kg in paperback and, at 210,000 words, takes 30 hours to read.
At 711 pages I can see his problem. It's a book that's hard to lug around, and you have to be careful how you sit when reading it. But 30 hours? I doubt it.

I don't read anywhere near as fast as I once did. Back in my younger days one standard page per minute seemed like quite a good rate to me; not exactly speed reading but fast enough, I thought, to get through even the longest books in a reasonable time. But 30 hours? That's two hours a day for over two weeks. Surely not. I don't know how fast Krauth reads but I think there's a mistake here. A page per minute gives us 711 minutes - let's round that up to 720 minutes, which is 12 hours. Even a page every two minutes gives us only 24 hours in total. So where does this 30 hours come from? At that rate Krauth is reading a page every 2.5 minutes; a snail's pace.

At the end of the review Krauth states that he didn't read the last eight pages of this book. I think the reasons he supplies are a bit spurious. I've never before heard of someone getting that close to the end of a long book and not finishing. Especially a reviewer, who then tries to make a virtue out of it. Maybe he needed that 20 minutes to do something else. I'm terribly confused.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 11, 2008 11:44 AM.

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