Yesterday I reached that exciting part in a book where you realise you’re half way through. I am now closer to the end than the start. It’s a feeling that I still enjoy as much as I did when I was nine years old in the library and it’s one of the reasons that I think I’ll never move on to Kindles: I like to feel the weight of paper in my left hand getting heavier as I near the conclusion.
I was going to post something on Twitter about enjoying the book but I stopped myself, remembering I’d posted about the same book two months ago. Yep, it’s taken me eight weeks to read 176 pages. On the face of it, that makes for a pretty damning review. It implies the book in question is the exact opposite of a page-turner. If you were to take averages then I’ve read approximately three pages a day before giving up and moving on to something more thrilling. The laundry, perhaps.
Except I have actually enjoyed this book. I really have. I get teased for being a “slow reader” when I do in fact read the words themselves at a normal pace, I just don’t sit down to read very often. I can be really wrapped up in a book yet still go for a week without reading it. I’ll then dip into it for an hour before forgetting about it until the next sleepy Sunday comes around. I don’t have a commute to kill time on and I don’t read before bed (entirely Seth Macfarlane’s fault, that one) so the opportunities to settle down with a book never seem to arise.
Yep, I’m one of those people who claims to love books and yet I fall into that slightly toe-curling category of being a “holiday reader”. I’ll read constantly on holiday and tell all and sundry how much I JUST LOVE READING, yet can’t (or won’t) make any time for it at home.
But does it matter? I feel some sort of weird sense of shame that I don’t read enough, but if you enjoy reading slowly then I guess that’s better than not reading at all.
I feel a similar thing with TV at the moment. I created a Twitter poll last night as I want a new TV series to watch and it suddenly dawned on me how many “epic” shows there are that I still haven’t seen.
Prime Suspect first aired in 1991 and I only got around to watching the box set last summer, so no wonder I haven’t watched The Wire, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones or House of Cards yet. And then there’s Scandal. And Dexter. And The West Wing. And True Detective. And Grey’s Anatomy. And Orange Is The New Black. AND WHAT ABOUT THE SOPRANOS?! The list goes on and on.
I was verging on anxious when I started thinking about it for too long last night. *When* will I watch all this great telly? Especially as they KEEP MAKING MORE? I feel like I need the world of entertainment to just take a couple of years off so I can at least half catch up. I want to know what “winter is coming” means and why Hal from Malcolm in the Middle looks really intense and crystal meth-y.
The problem is that I don’t really like binge-watching. For me, the enjoyment in a lot of these TV shows (which are, in the main, “thrillers”) is in the suspense and guesswork that comes between each episode. I want to try and work it out myself. I want to discuss each possible plot twist in depth. I love the waiting and the intensity of a new episode starting when you’ve stepped away from it for a while.
Now Friends wasn’t exactly a thriller, but I vividly remember sitting on the sofa with my mum in 1998 and watching Ross say Rachel’s name at the altar instead of Emily’s. I literally collapsed to the floor at the thought of having to wait MONTHS for the start of the fifth series to see what would happen next. (Pretty hilarious to think we once had to actually wait to see another episode of Friends, rather than knowing all the words and being able to watch eight episodes back to back without blinking on Comedy Central).
I loved watching Lost as it aired. Homeland has been another one which I’ve been able to watch in real time and it was definitely more enjoyable for it. The chat between episodes is half the fun and why I feel SO LEFT OUT on Sunday nights on Twitter as the #GoT gifs go into overdrive.
Now there seems to be a new “must see” series debuting every day, often with every episode available to download immediately. And it’s too overwhelming for me. The suspense just isn’t the same if it only lasts the length of the credits and however long it takes Netflix to fire up the next episode.
I know the trend for box sets on demand and streaming isn’t going to go away, but I want to stand up and say that I think it’s perfectly fine to enjoy tv shows and books slowly.
We don’t have to be in a rush…and savouring something over many weeks doesn’t have to automatically mean that something isn’t gripping.
You can be gripped slowly. Thrills can be paused.
And I would argue it makes the final climax that little bit better.