Although University of Houston English professor Mikics (The Art of the Sonnet) presents the guidelines in this thoughtful book as an antidote to the “continuous partial attention” that comes with distracted reading on the Internet, they are in fact the ground rules of the lit-crit technique known as “close reading,” pioneered by American academics in the middle of the 20th century. As he ably demonstrates, those rules are still valid for understanding literature today, and for an enriched reading experience. Likening engagement with a new book to traveling to a new land, Mikics offers 14 preliminary rules for familiarizing oneself with the terrain and applies them in studies of short stories, novels, poems, essays, and plays. Several rules seem obvious: “Be Patient,” “Get a Sense of Style,” and “Use the Dictionary.” For others, like “Identify Signposts,” “Track Key Words,” and “Find the Parts,” he shows how careful application of these rules deepens the reader’s grasp of the text—notably in his insightful deconstruction of Chekhov’s short story “Gooseberries.” Mikics writes accessibly and with infectious enthusiasm on an impressively eclectic range of classic and contemporary texts. The reader who picks up this volume will likely already have been won over to Mikics’s argument, but the book’s pedagogical value for students is considerable. (Oct.)
There is nothing else like
Slow Reading in a Hurried Age. Mikics's fourteen rules are quite wonderful, and I will in teaching adopt them myself.
Like [Charles] Lamb,
Mikics understands how modern culture discourages reading for pleasure--especially in an Internet world of short-lived but insistent information. Inviting readers into a less frenetic, more rewarding world, Mikics explores a series of literary masterpieces, showing how getting lost in a book is still the best way to find joys we really want...Readers acquire stimulating perspectives on individual works by Homer and Whitman, Dickens and Cather, Shakespeare and Chekov. But they also develop the intellectual poise to set one work into play with others, across boundaries of nationality, style, and history. An exceptional book whetting readers' appetites for the savoring of many more.
Booklist (starred review) - Bryce Christensen
There is much solid wisdom and penetrating advice in these pages.
David Mikics is an inspired teacher, and he has brought his rich pedagogic imagination to life in this book, which teaches us to fall in love again with great literature. The examples are wonderfully apt and wide-ranging.
It may seem counterintuitive to read a book on slow reading in order to help you read more efficiently. But that's exactly what you stand to gain by (slowly) reading...
Mikics' wise, common-sense guide to getting the most out of real reading--totally immersive reading...I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Mikics insists that we are not in a world of declining reading, but quite the opposite. People are inundated with words that they feel compelled to read--in email, in tweets, in posts to social networking sites, in text messages--so much so that they can barely keep up. So we read fast and carelessly and we prize brevity at the expense of substance, a habit that is making all of us increasingly unable to concentrate on what is directly in front of us, constantly distracted as we are by pop-ups, embedded links, and the whole range of digital items that make constant demands on our time and attention...The choice of materials is eclectic but one of the finest achievements of the volume is how compellingly, but undogmatically, it makes the case for a literary canon, one not born of professorial or other fiat but of merit...The greatest strength of the volume is that in modeling slow reading of exemplary works of literature, it fosters exactly the qualities that such reading requires: sustained attention, attentiveness to detail, a willingness and ability to accommodate a gradually building realization of the significance of a given work.
PopMatters - James Williams
A step-by-step guide to reading books amid the rushing world of an information-obsessed era. The book guides the reader through what amounts to a sort of extended independent study with a very approachable and patient professor.
Ploughshares online - Ian Stansel
This addition to the growing store of literary how-to books opens with the stuff of countless essays and op-ed pieces: too much information, not enough concentration, it is time to slow down. All this functions as a preamble to advice about what to do after the smartphone is turned off: read more patiently and thereby rescue interior depth from the decentering storm of digital text. So although it serves as an introduction to practical criticism, it is also a work of moral improvement, primarily aimed not at students, the captive goal-oriented audience with teachers to please, but at adults with demanding, other-directed lives that hem in the room for contemplation.
David Mikics’ relaxed point that we like to identify with characters in novels puts it plainly: reading is done self to self.
Sydney Morning Herald - Owen Richardson
Beautifully and unabashedly edifying…
Mikics is up to something more than just technical instruction. What separates Slow Reading in a Hurried Age from other popular or academic how‐to guides is Mikics’s urgent reverence for literature, which he wants to impress upon the reader. To read well, he clearly believes, is not just to master a skill; it is to become a certain kind of person…Mikics, in calm, authoritative prose, lays out the case that the way we read now is in many cases the enemy of reading as it is supposed to be… Slow Reading in a Hurried Age is a guide to becoming a great reader. This is a very hard thing to teach: so much of what happens when we read is internal and instinctive, and it is hard to transform reactions into rules. But Mikics manages to do exactly that… The gift of Mikics’s book at the right moment could lead to a lifetime of good, slow reading.
Barnes & Noble Review - Adam Kirsch
Mikics] prizes the kind of ‘slow reading’ that allows us to appreciate the rhythms and voices and atmosphere of a book, to take it apart as one might a clock, in order to figure out how it works.
The Nation - Joanna Scott
Mikics (English/Univ. of Houston) argues that you can't truly enjoy literature unless you slow way down and read…well, the way
he does. Throughout the book--an odd combination of literary exegeses and self-help suggestions--Mikics sprinkles complaints about the digital age and its current manifestations (Facebook, Twitter et al.) and asserts that they destroy our attention spans (is the increase of ADD related, he wonders?) and keep us on the surface of experience. His solution? Reading old books very slowly with an open dictionary alongside. Virtually all the authors he examines are dead (two are alive but "retired": Philip Roth and Alice Munro), so whiffs of antiquarianism waft up from most of the pages. Not that his arguments are unappealing. Of course we would all be better off if we read the classics and read them slowly; however, it just doesn't seem that likely to happen. Mikics declares that he's not advocating the "close reading" techniques described by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, but rather a more leisurely journey through significant works of literature--a journey which, he soundly argues, is enhanced by a knowledge of the author's biography and the cultural and historical contexts of the work. He then offers rules for readers, devoting a chapter to each--e.g., Be Patient, Get a Sense of Style, Use the Dictionary, Be Suspicious, Find Another Book. For each rule, Mikics offers ways to apply it to specific works. He ends with chapters on how to read various genres--with more analyses of specific works ranging from The Republic to Paradise Lost to Great Expectations. A learned and earnest but ultimately quixotic attempt to convince us that a stagecoach is better for us than a bullet train.