Is anything more certain to make a book completely unintelligible than reading it slowly enough? It’s like examining a mural from two centimeters away and scanning it at a rate of ten square centimetres every third day for a year, like a short-sighted slug. This doesn’t allow for the integration of the whole, for taking in the mural at a glance.
And then years go by, and professional experience and life experience cause people to mature, even in their relationships to language, and one encounters college-educated people who perform with reasonable skill in the workspace and are capable of carrying on a conversation of some sophistication, but who pick up a book and know no better than to hug the ground, dragging themselves laboriously through foliage that, from their slug’s perspective, they are unable to rapidly survey. And how many people want to feel like slugs, especially once they know what it is like to express themselves intelligently in conversation? This natural dissatification accentuates the difference between the “developed” oral side and the “underdeveloped” written side; it relegates the reading of books to a vicious cycle of stagnation. People who feel this way don’t read books. They never really learned to read books. Reading never appealed to them. They never acquired a taste for reading, and so they will never enjoy it. And, of course, it isn’t necessary to read in order to be succesful in a career, to be accepted socially, or to make money.
Those who do read books because they were lucky enough to have had parents or teachers or friends who were readers, those few, even, who read a book a day with the unfettered voracity that later tends to embarrass them – not realizing that this very habit has taught them to read, since it is reading at such a pace that teaches the reader to see the whole at a glance – are so few and far between that average book reading is low, even in developed countries. Reading is not the act of spelling out words, or the effort of dragging oneself across the surface of a mural that will never be viewed in its entirety.