January 8, 2007
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Remedial Reading

An Australian friend asks,

I've noticed the number of books that you're reviewing on your site: you seem to be reading a book every few days, and yet you're still doing things like shipping Tinderbox 3.6: are you a very fast reader, or do you have some other trick?

I'm not a fast reader. In fact, I'm slower than average. Much slower than my wife, certainly, over whose shoulder I cannot read for more than a page or two.

I was wandering through the bookstore after today’s Patriots win and thinking that I need to read more. There are so many interesting new books....

It's not terribly surprising that I read slowly. After all, I spent four years in remedial reading. (I don't think I'm the first Parkerite to write that June Atchinson deserved a great many medals. From our little remedial reading program, as far as I can remember, everyone finished high school, only one person didn't graduate from a good college — he's better-read than I but lhe lost all patience with school — and I think we wound up with at least one M.D. and one Ph.D. out of a class of about ten.)

At Readercon in the summer, I meet people who really do read a lot. The worst, though, are the pros, the acquisition editors. I think some of them read so much at work that they have almost no time left for any other reading. Be careful when you wish for your dream job.

Mostly, I read in the late evening after dinner, and a little in the morning before the newspaper claims me. (Lately, I'm reading more Web politics and less of the Globe.) For a while, I read over lunch, but now I lunch less — and tend to read TLS, NYRB, and Wired when I do. I'm reduced to reading The New Yorker while cooking dinner. There's never enough time.

I used to read while waiting for the compiler; in fact, I went through pretty much all of Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of United States Naval Operations in World War II while recompiling Storyspace, Fontina, and Link Apprentice. Compilers are faster, now, and we have more email.