A slightly bizarre experiment in reading

When I retired, some 10 years ago, I decided that I would no longer buy ‘airport’ novels. By and large, I prefer to relax by turning the pages of a not-too-demanding novel as opposed to watching TV. I have read loads of whodunnits and lots of general fiction (I tend to avoid anything that has been reviewed in the quality press). So, it came as something of a blow to me when my city library (Sunderland, UK) more or less closed down. There is just one single room with a few shelf stacks around the place. You could probably ask and get something if you specifically knew what you wanted, but that precludes the enjoyment of browsing.

Incidentally, I do find it interesting that Sunderland is attempting to be designated as the English Cultural City of the Year (I think Hull is for 2017). Sunderland doesn’t have a proper public library and there is no shop in the city where you could buy a decent piano.   Pretty much says it all, I feel.

Anyway, I have to turn to my own situation. I have over the past year bought around 40 doorstoppers. My local supermarket sells these for around 2 GBP per read which is amazing. However, I am now moving on to a new phase. Rather than passing these books on to the charity shop, I am thinking of ways to get further reading pleasure from them. I  am about to start on an experiment (I once tried something similar to this many years ago – I am hoping to take it a little further this time).

The first step is to find a number between 1-38, using a random number generator I frequently use on the Internet ( think it is called Random.org). So, the number I have been given is #11. I’ll just go and find the book that identifies (the 11th one along the shelves)….

OK. This has brought up a paperback book; I don’t think I shall tell you the title because I don’t want this to turn into a book review. The novel starts on p.5 and ends on p.374. It is not immediately obvious how best to proceed. I need to establish the rules of my reading game, as it were.

  1. Each session will start at a page chosen by the random number generator.
  2. I shall need to carry a list of 5 unused random numbers that can be taken in order, in case I am out and cannot get to my computer (e.g. on the Metro train). I can keep a pencil note of these.
  3. I shall need a simple way to record pages that have been read. I will start by ruling tabular lines across the blank page at the start, to record pages read within clumps of 50 page boundaries (so: 1-49; 50-99, and so on). I won’t know if this will work, but it is an experiment and I shall have to suck it and see.
  4. Any random number falling on a page already read will be deemed null and void. If this becomes a problem as I get into the readings, then I will come up with a more sophisticated approach to the selection of random numbers.

I don’t know how this will work out; it is an experiment. It should give the novel a slightly post-modern feel. I think it will be a bit like watching a DVD film you have already seen through once, but dipping into various scenes at different times the second time. Of course, students studying English literature at school do this all the time with Shakespearean plays, for example.

There are 43 chapters in the book I have to read (rather a lot IMHO). Still,  this averages at a mere 8/9 pp per chapter. This means that on most reading sessions there should be a reasonably self-contained section or two that I can plough through (although I do tend to fall to sleep on a book in bed).

If this experiment works, I do have some further things to try. In my live music performances, where I stream my songs up to the Internet virtual community known as Second Life, I have sometimes combined two songs in what the U.S. folks refer to as a ‘mash-up’ (and this is not the same as a medley). So the possibility would be to read two novels in parallel taking page start numbers randomly across both novels (a coin toss could determine which novel was to be sampled at any given reading session). Well, I guess I have to learn to walk before I can run.

OK. So, I have written 5 random numbers on my green post-it bookmark. These are: 225, 96. 345, 87, 37. This is so exciting – wish me luck with this somewhat bizarre experiment in reading! Speak to you later my dear blogophiles.

P.S. My first mistake: I have started on two sessions (p.225 and p.96) only to find that I have not read the book before. I had intended this procedure to apply to re-reads. Never mind, I shall just press on.



2 Responses to “A slightly bizarre experiment in reading”

  1. Madelin Benelli Says:

    Good luck with the experiment. You are missing browsing in the library, you say.
    Maybe I can teach you a new word for that. If so it would give me great pleasure:)
    The word is “serendipity”, and it means the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way ( according to The Concise Oxford English Dictionary.

  2. enigmaticpencil Says:

    ‘Serendipity’ is spot on!

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