What is Slow Reading?

As leader of the “Slow Reading” discussions at the Library, Ellen Lambert is not the antithesis to the late speed-reading impresario Evelyn Wood. “‘Slow Reading’ describes my practice of looking at a text very closely in order to appreciate nuances of language and hence of meaning,” says Lambert, author (The Face of Love: Feminism and the Beauty Question) and White Plains resident, who holds a Ph.D. in English from Yale University and taught the subject at Manhattan’s Dalton School for over 25 years. (She plans to open a tutoring service for area high-school students.) “In our discussions of short fiction, we often read particular passages out loud. We then examine them in detail and consider how they relate to the story's larger structure. It’s also a way of honoring the beauty of a particular author’s writing.”

Lambert, who is finishing her own book on slow reading, says that the term “invokes what the ‘New Critics’ of the 1940s and 1950s called ‘Close Reading.’ But with this term I also want to signal my affinity with the contemporary ‘Slow Food’ movement, because great art, like a great meal, nourishes us in so many ways. “

“Slow Reading” is in its second season at the Library, and Lambert started the Fall session with stories culled (with one exception) from The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. September meetings delved into works by the late Flannery O’Connor (“A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and “Good Country People”) and Tim O’Brien (“The Things They Carried” and “How to Tell a True War Story”), whose writing is often based on his experiences as a U.S. Army sergeant during the Vietnam War.

Coming on Monday, October 15, are two works by Canadian author Margaret Atwood: “Death by Landscape” (1989) and “Stone Mattress” (2011), followed on October 29 with two from Atwood’s American contemporary Joyce Carol Oates: “Convalescing” (1969) and “How I Contemplated the World…” (1970). The text of “Stone Mattress” is not in Norton but can be read online at newyorker.com/magazine/2011/12/19, or in copies of Atwood’s stories from the Library.

The remaining four meetings this fall and winter will feature the writing of Irish novelist and master of the short story form William Trevor (1928-2016), drawn from his Selected Stories. Here is the Trevor portion of the schedule:

⧫  November 19: “Timothy’s Birthday” (1992) and “Gilbert’s Mother” (2011)

⧫  December 3: “After Rain” (1995) and “Cheating at Canasta” (2007)

⧫  December 17: “Against the Odds” (1999) and “Justina’s Priest” (2002)

⧫  January 7, 2019: “Lost Ground” (1992) and “The Mourning” (1993)

Both The Norton anthology and Selected Stories by William Trevor are available to borrow at the Library.

The Monday programs are from 2:00-4:00 p.m. in the Library’s first-floor Community Room (next to the café), and they will resume in the spring with George Saunders as the featured author. For further information, email ellenzlambert@gmail.com.


Steve Cohn

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