Faster Than the Speed of Night

So word of my freakish reading ability got around and Carolyn Kellogg, Jacket Copy’s ace lead blogger, engaged me in a Q&A about the nuts and bolts of it:

Jacket Copy: So how do you do it?

Moi: I've been trying to analyze my
reading method to see why I've almost always been able to do this
(well, I started reading at the age of 2 1/2; I don't think I was
speed-reading back then, but I became aware I could read fast when I
burned through eight "Sweet Valley High" books in one evening when I
was about 9.) A lot of it has to do with my music background. I studied
voice and piano fairly seriously during my elementary and high school
days, and as such, I became very attuned to rhythm and cadence and
voice. So what happens when I read is that I can "hear" the narrative
and dialogue in my head, but what's odd is that I'm both aware of the
book at, say, an LP rate (33 1/3 revolutions per minute) but in my head
it translates to roughly a 78.

I've tried to slow this down, but
realized that my natural reading rhythm is freakishly fast when an
author friend asked me to go through the manuscript of her
soon-to-be-published book for continuity errors. I sat in the La-Z-Boy
at my parents' house with a pencil, went through page by page making
notes but also enjoying the book, and had the whole task done in about
3-4 hours. This was a 350-page manuscript too, so roughly 80,000 words.
Take away the pencil and the editor's hat and the reading speed would
probably be close to 90 minutes. What also seems to happen is that I
read a page not necessarily word by word, but by capturing pages in
sequence in my head. The words and phrases appear diagonally, like I'm
absorbing the text all in one gulp, and then I move on to the next
sequence I can absorb by paragraph or page. It's like I'm reading from
a whole-language standpoint instead of phonics — that's the only way I
can figure out how to explain it.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to finish the book I started reading today…