Would that there were no other kind.
Sara Levine, author of the fantastic Treasure Island!!!, was interviewed in the Globe and Mail Monday. The article seems to treat “slow writing” (a “cute” coinage a la “slow food” — fuck) as quaint, eccentric. Disaster!!! I want to say (though I am in complete agreement with what Ms. Levine has to say):
As a teacher, the 41-year-old author says over the telephone from Chicago, she struggles to slow overeager students down, demanding they set aside their billowing reams to concentrate on the architecture of the sentence – “things like grammatical suspension, the difference between nouns and verbs, rhythm and sound.”
As a teacher, I remind my students that every word on the page is a choice, an opportunity. Writing is fraught, I tell them, more thrilling than they think. And not only for them, but for their readers as well.
I am not an adventurous reader anymore. I used to read books from all disciplines and genres; now I indulge my esoteric tastes only when researching. And when I indulge, I find so much to dislike. Lazy language, everywhere; garbage verbiage. I tell my students that they should accord the words in front of them the respect they are due — the writer walked these words out; they did not spill, they did not flow. (I complained about this once in a letter to one of my teachers — no flow — who responded: “Good.”) And so I am embarrassed when I encounter a spillage. The loose translation of Pascal we all know and quote, “I have made this letter long only because I have not had the leisure to make it short,” seems right because fast writing begets fast reading. The remark itself is careless (not as aphorism but in context, where it only adds to the letter’s length — if this had been all that Pascal had written, he would have been caught out as disingenuous), begs the reader to take less care in reading.
I want my students slowed. I fantasize often about teaching one story for an entire semester. A single story, read 32 times. It is a fantasy, as yet; I think I could do it with a year long course — the second semester, once I had battered their momentum out of them, they might be ready. In the meantime, I teach the same concepts, over and over, all semester long. I ask the same questions, over and over. Slow. Everything is spectacle until you get to the minutiae.
Mostly it is as reminder, though: I wish that respect upon myself. I am not and never have been fast as a writer. It takes me many drafts to even figure out what is meant, and many more to mean what is meant. And I have visceral reactions to fast writing. It is offensive to me in some way. My time as a reader has not been respected.[N.B.: I might have written a longer post, but I have not had the leisure to do so– this by way of benison, not apology.]