by Julia Buckley
I'm in the middle of THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST, the third of the Stieg Larsson trilogy. I realize that I am probably the last person in the mystery community to read these books, but as everyone promised, they are great reading. Yes, really compelling reading--except for every once in a while, when Larsson the narrator shines through and gives a sort of political rant. At that point, my eyes glaze over and I start looking for a lifeline that will lead me back to the plot I was enjoying oh, so much.
Yes, even I, a self-proclaimed purist of reading, am occasionally a skimmer. I have skimmed the likes of greats like Ian McEwan and J.K. Rowling as well as lesser-known writers who wander away from their own plots and leave me scrambling to get back to them.
Yet as I admit this to you it feels confessional. Is skimming a sin? And if I do it, am I missing out on something vastly important that the author wanted me to read?
I don't skim with every book. There are some works which are paced in such a way that I would never consider skipping ahead--in fact I linger on each sentence, savouring its construction and style. Other books absorb me to such an extent that skimming is not an option; I need each precious detail.
So what does skimming suggest? Am I, as a reader, just too impatient for some resolution? Or is it a sign that a writer may have spent too much time on something that he or she cares about more than does his or her reader?
Don't get me wrong. I think Stieg Larsson was a genius of plot and pacing. Except when he wasn't. :) In each book there was at least one portion that had me setting the book down, not that interested in picking it up again. And that was after a fair amount of skimming. But I would persist, and get to a large chunk that was so exciting I could barely contain myself. Once, while reading on the El, I actually wanted to turn to a stranger and start talking about the novel--a sure way to be branded insane. But Larsson's books have that magical effect. They are uplifting. And yet I skimmed in every one.
I guess I'm writing this in hopes that someone out there will forgive me my skimmery. Or perhaps they'll even admit to skimming themselves.
As an author I'd like to think that my readers savor every line. But as a reader I know that skimming is a reality of individual taste.
What's your take on skimming? Did you skim this post? If so, where did I lose you? :)
(art link here)