Against Speed Reading

PICEdgar-Allan-Poe-stamp(1)I have seen many computations respecting the greatest amount of erudition attainable by an individual in his life-time; but these computations are falsely based, and fall infinitely beneath the truth. It is true that, in general, we retain, we remember to available purpose, scarcely one-hundredth part of what we read; yet there are minds which not only retain all receipts, but keep them at compound interest forever. Again:—were every man supposed to read out, he could read, of course, very little, even in half a century; for, in such case, each individual word must be dwelt upon in some degree. But, in reading to ourselves, at the ordinary rate of what is called “light reading,” we scarcely touch one word in ten. And, even physically considered, knowledge breeds knowledge, as gold gold; for he who reads really much, finds his capacity to read increase in geometrical ratio. The helluo librorum [“glutton of books”] will but glance at the page which detains the ordinary reader some minutes; and the difference in the absolute reading (its uses considered), will be in favor of the helluo, who will have winnowed the matter of which the tyro mumbled both the seeds and the chaff. A deep-rooted and strictly continuous habit of reading will, with certain classes of intellect, result in an instinctive and seemingly magnetic appreciation of a thing written; and now the student reads by pages just as other men by words. Long years to come, with a careful analysis of the mental process, may even render this species of appreciation a common thing. It may be taught in the schools of our descendants of the tenth or twentieth generation. It may become the method of the mob of the eleventh or twenty-first. And should these matters come to pass—as they will—there will be in them no more legitimate cause for wonder than there is, to-day, in the marvel that, syllable by syllable, men comprehend what, letter by letter, I now trace upon this page.—Edgar Allan Poe, Marginalia

Disaster Days?

What Fresh Hell Is This?

What Fresh Hell Is This?

Hólmavík in the Strandir region of Iceland’s West Fjords is a strange place. Its main claim to fame is the presence of the Icelandic Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft. Now it seems there is a second reason to feel apprehensive about a visit to Hólmavík, especially this time of year when many of the roads are closed.

The reason? In a word, Hörmungardagar, or “Disaster Days.” According to Páll Stefánsson of The Iceland Review:

On Friday’s program, among other activities, is a course in self-pity, a complaint service and an ugly dance performance.

On Saturday, head to the library to find bad books and later listen to the worst Eurovision songs [this could the most dreadful event of all] and the worst poem competition, where very bad coffee will be served. In the local church, sad (and bad) songs will be performed.

On Sunday, an anger management game will be held and a program about what has happened in the region.

The festival is directed by Ester Ösp Valdimarsdóttir, the so-called [huh?] spare time manager of the Strandir region.

I would like to have stayed in Hólmavík for a day or two, but I just couldn’t book a room; so I didn’t want to risk getting stuck there. I did change buses there, however. Toward the end of my trip, I had an all-day bus ride from Isafjorður to Borgarnes, during which I changed buses in Hólmavík in the local supermarket parking lot. The long bus ride from Isafjorður was uncomfortable because the bus was full of backpackers and all their gear, so there was barely room for my feet. Fortunately, the second leg of the trip on on a large and comfy Stræto bus.

I’m sure that if you can find your way to Hólmavík this weekend—fat chance, that!—you’ll find that, after all, you don’t have all that much about which to complain.

By the way, if you’d like to see a sampling of truly dreadful Eurovision songs, click here. And please don’t hold me responsible! You will find that there are musical acts that are far worse than anything even Lawrence Welk could have imagined.