All my life, I’ve suffered from a rare and incurable condition. It isn’t terminal, thank heavens, so it isn’t what you might call a "high profile" affliction. You won’t find it on milk cartons or in the public service announcements that air during the Super Bowl. But there are a few famous people who suffer from it, so you might have heard of it. Hermione, for example–you know, Harry Potter’s friend–presents a classic case.
Cumpulsio Literosa, she would call it: the compulsive inability to stop reading.
I come by it honestly. My parents are both avid readers, although my Aunt Dorry suffers from an even more acute case. I knew it when I was just a little girl and caught my beloved aunt reading the cereal box at the breakfast table. I mean the whole cereal box. So at least I’m not alone.
There are advantages. My mother, for example, shared this laugh with me today, gleaned from a sign she read on the back of a garbage truck: "Our Service Is Excellent. Satisfaction Guaranteed… or Twice Your Garbage Back!"
And there are disadvantages.
One of the biggest drawbacks is that the art of "skimming" literary passages–and I use the word literary in the broadest possible sense, meaning all things written–has always eluded me. This was a real problem in law school. It’s almost impossible to read every word of every case assigned, especially when you include the footnotes.
Almost, but not quite. It turns out you can do it if you cut your sleep down to two daily shifts of four hours each: from 2:00 AM to 6:00 AM and then from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM.
But I wouldn’t recommend it.
There’s also the problem of interpersonal communication. I understand that most people don’t read every word of everything. I really do get that. I just have trouble remembering it.
The concept has been explained to me a thousand times. People are busy. People try to save time by reading for the gist of things. I hear, but I don’t comprehend. Rushing through a sentence makes about as much sense to me as rushing through a vacation. How can you savor the words if you don’t take them all in?
So the process of writing this post began with an old but apparently as yet ungrasped learning experience on my part. Deliciously ironic, really. But I’m starting to feel like a bit of a dolt.