Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Quote of the Day: A Reading Lesson from "The English Patient"

The book, The English Patient, is interesting for someone in my position if, for nothing else, its emphatically explicit interrelationships Herodotus' Histories. While reading through it, in a section about Rudyard Kipling, one reads a lesson on reading, or the art of reading, a lesson I need to recall from time to time and hopefully will convey to my students next year:

"Read him slowly, dear girl, you must read Kipling slowly. Watch carefully where the commas fall so you can discover the natural pauses. He is a writer who used pen and ink. He looked up from the page a lot, I believe, stared through his window and listened to birds, as most writers who are alone do. Some do not know the names of birds, though he did. Your eye is too quick and North American. Think about the speed of his pen. What an appalling, barnacled old first paragraph it is otherwise."

Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient, 94.

May your own readings dwell on the pauses, fully inhabiting the text so you can hear the chirping birds the author listened to when applying ink to paper.

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