316. The Impatient Reader

“Patience you must have, young padawan,” said Yoda.


Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

When I was 16, I was serious about writing. I mean, really serious about the craft. I was going to change the world by the sheer force of my words, dammit! I was going to make history, to become the greatest storyteller the world has ever known!

In retrospect, I’m glad that Past-Me did not go and write a crappy novel and get it published. It would have been too embarrassing for words. But it’s true: I was young, I was eager, I was excited, and I was determined. I wanted to make things happen and I wanted them to happen NOW!

Still, the self-aware side of me did a little reality check, and even as an invincible 16-year old, I knew that my writing was nowhere good enough to make history or change the world (I’m not yet sure if the two are mutually exclusive, but let’s just pretend they are). I decided then that I should read some serious literature to get this intellectual soil all fertilized, y’know what I mean?

I bought a couple of novels with my parents’ money, and the ones that I didn’t buy, I borrowed from friends who owned them. I read Mr. Steinbeck’s The Pearl; I read the Sherlock Holmes stories; I attempted to read a John Updike novel and eventually just gave up; but most of all, right at the top of the list, I knew I wanted to read, and complete reading, Mr. Tolkien’s legendary work that is The Lord Of The Rings.

When the movies came out, I was about 12 years old. I didn’t care much for it then – I didn’t care much for movies in those days – and so my first brush with Tolkien’s work came one day after PMR, when I sat in the open-air school hall and, on the portable TV that they wheeled in for us, watched the extended edition of The Fellowship Of The Ring.

(say what you want about Peter Jackson being a money-grabbing opportunist, but his work on Tolkien’s legendarium is really unsurpassed)

With a little research, I found out all about how Tolkien’s work is easy one of the cornerstones of the fantasy genre and a shining gem of western literature. And I knew then, if there was a work that I had to soak in and really absorb into my mind, it was the epic story concerning hobbits.

I started reading the 350,000-word story at the beginning of May or so. I completed the whole thing within the month. But this isn’t to say that I was so engrossed into the story that I devoured it so, no – I was completely bored for most parts of the first volume, a little engaged towards the second half of the second volume, and by the time I trudged over to the third volume, my mind was already numb. I could not, for the life of me, fathom why anyone would use so many words to describe something that I would describe in much fewer words.

(I even toyed with the idea of writing the abridged version of The Lord Of The Rings – with just the good parts about battles and fighting and stuff. What a pretentious little prick I was)

The only reason I finished the whole story in a month, you see, was because I was an impatient reader. I did a reading speed test around that time, and I found that I read about 300 words per minute with 70% comprehension. I figured it was good enough for me to go on with life. I finished reading Ms. Rowling’s The Order of the Phoenix and The Half Blood Prince in 2 weeks. I read Mr. Leroux’s The Phantom Of The Opera (the actual novel, none of that lit class condensed version) in 3 weeks. There were so many important books to cover, and I figured that the faster I read, the more books I’ll finish in a shorter time, and the better it’ll be.

Except here’s what I found out about doing things quickly: sprinting through a field of flowers doesn’t leave you much time to smell the flowers, or to help the scent of the flowers grow on you. Despite my intentions to soak in Tolkien’s imaginary world, what I really did was take the bullet train through the region. And in the end I came out blank, wondering why people hold it in such high esteem.

Impatience has hardly gotten anyone anywhere, I think. Many a bad decision had been made in a moment of impatience. Tolkien took 12 years just to write the story, and that’s without all the nitty gritty worldbuilding stuff. I don’t think most of us can even stay in one job for 12 years, much less on a single project.

There is a Lord Of The Rings bookset that I bought when I was 17 (I bought it thinking that it was the DVD set. It’s kind of a funny story). It had been kept all wrapped up in the TV cabinet for the past 6 years or so. earlier this week, I took it out, unwrapped it, and put it in my room. Earlier this afternoon, I began to read the story again, only slower this time, taking my time to take in the details.

It wasn’t as tedious as I remembered it.


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