Advanced Skimming


The worst thing about grad school is that I feel like I’ve lost my ability to read and read well.

Nothing sticks to my brain anymore. There are too many other things crowding around in my mind to let me take in words on a page. I transpose words in sentences and have to read them several times over. I lose focus on the content of a paragraph and have to read the whole thing over again. I can’t wade through syntax like I used to be able to in high school. I feel like my eyes skip over the page like a smooth stone on a pond, and the only words that make sense to me are the ones that come out of my fingers.

Of course, that could be because grad-level textbooks are deliberately written to be confusing.

I’m sure there’s a committee somewhere. A committee of really smart people who have gotten so smart that they forget what it means to be a student. They sit around a table and drink Earl Grey tea and talk about how to compose the textbooks for English masters students.

“I say, Ecklewait, the syntax in this chapter is not nearly confusing enough. We ought to rewrite the whole thing to make it one hundred pages long instead of the current twenty. They’re not getting an education until they’re reading twice as much as they need to in order to glean the same information.”

“Quite right, Jasper old chap. While we’re at it, let’s through in a paragraph or two describing how important it is for scholarly writing to be succinct and to the point. That should really confuse them.”

“Excellent. Confusion builds character.”

The result of such conferences? The stuff I read all day, every day. And into the night. And early morning.

On the bright side, I’m getting pretty good at skimming.


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