From the Chronicle of Higher Education, Lindsay Waters, the executive editor for the humanities at Harvard University Press, is calling for a “revolution in reading” by asking people at all levels to read slowly for the pleasure of the words, as opposed to reading quickly to synthesize the information.

This seems like a brilliant idea. In my teaching of university students (mostly writing courses), I find that they are able to synthesize material and engage readings in abstract ways, but they are ill-equipped to deal with the materiality of language — seeing how the words on the page work, or using words to make a logical argument or describe a vivid scene.

Here’s an excerpt from Waters’ essay:

There is something similar between a reading method that focuses primarily on the bottom-line meaning of a story in a novel and the economic emphasis on the bottom line that makes automobile manufacturers speed up assembly lines. If there is any truth to the analogy, it provides grounds for concern.

I want to ask what reading would look like if we were to reintroduce, forcefully, the matter of time. Let’s leave Evelyn Wood behind, and let’s leave Franco Moretti behind, too. The mighty imperative is to speed everything up, but there might be some advantage in slowing things down. People are trying slow eating. Why not slow reading?

Nietzsche defined philology as the art of teaching people “to go aside, to take time, to become still, to become slow.” If we look at the dynamics of what I call “slow reading,” we might be able to explore the values of a methodology that has links to what was once called “close reading” — but that goes beyond close reading in a number of ways that might prove particularly valuable today. The one thing necessary is that we put aside our normal adherence to punch-clock time, a universal measure that has us all in its grip.

The most skillful writers are always playing with our timing as readers, for example by retarding our progress through their works, causing us to linger and pay closer attention than we might have wanted. The late literary critic William Empson said that the poet uses the physical properties of words not to stop us, but to make us dally through the great amount of thought crushed into a few lines.

The full essay is behind a paywall.

Some other interesting links:


The week ahead, according to predictive text

Just how predictive is predictive text?

To find out I began a sentence in my iPhone’s Notes app with the word “On” followed by the day of the week and the phrase “the world.” For the rest of the sentence I selected one of the three words suggested by the predictive algorithm to find out what’s in store for all of us.

Here is what I discovered:

Continue reading “The week ahead, according to predictive text”

13 things about my Lolo, Col. Maximiano Saqui Janairo, for Veterans Day

This is my Lolo, Maximiano Saqui Janairo, in a studio photo taken in Manila around 1930, when he was about 24 or 25 years old. On his lapel, you can see the castle emblem of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Note the shoulder patch — the gold carabao on a red field — the symbol of the Philippine Scouts.

Here’s a photo of my Lolo, Maximiano Saqui Janairo.

  • 1930 graduate of U.S. Military Academy at West Point
  • Commission in the Philippine Scouts
  • Chief engineer with the Philippine Army in 1941
  • Captured by the Japanese in April 1942
  • Survived the Bataan Death March
  • Prisoner of War in Camp O’Donnell
  • Escaped while being transferred to a hospital for malaria and dysentery
  • Joined the guerrilla units fighting the Japanese occupation
  • Served in Korea during the Korean War
  • Served with NATO in Paris
  • Retired as a colonel, stationed at the engineer school at Fort Belvoir
  • Awarded Legion of Merit “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States from 8 December 1941 to 9 April 1942”
  • Buried at Arlington National Cemetery


Best ‘I Voted’ sticker of 2017

Photo: An early all-girls basketball game in the Philippines


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“P.I. : Filipino girls playing basketball (early 1900’s). (Worcester); 1855; 1900/1910.” University of Michigan Library Digital Collections.

Basketball is a huge sport in the Philippines. In trying to figure out how that happened, I came across this image in the archives University of Michigan Library Digital Collections, which includes lots of images from the early interactions of the US in the Philippines.

Continue reading “Photo: An early all-girls basketball game in the Philippines”