It is, I think, obvious why my six-point speed-reading programme is unsatisfactory for works of literature. Novels, plays, and poetry cannot be dealt with in this manner-not because there's anything 'holy' about them, but because it simply doesn't work. If you dart through a novel or a Shakespeare play employing the first four 'points' I suggest, you end up precisely where you started, and annoyed to boot. The main reason, of course, is that literary works don't have summaries, graphs, illustrations or even chapter headings. And their introductory and concluding sections work in a different, less straightforward, way.
So how can you increase your rate of coverage if the central part of your course is literature? To come to terms with a major play takes a lot of time. Even more arduous is a text the length of Jane Eyre or Our Mutual Friend (both frequent choices for A-Level and undergraduate courses). When you remember that reading the text is only the first stage-you've then got to discuss, analyse and absorb it-the task can seem forbidding.
One answer is to cultivate 'skip-reading', which I've looked at already. This provides useful 'ignition', which is important; but, clearly, it won't do much more than get you started, especially if you're missing out twenty pages at a time. By all means use it to kick you off; but you need something else as well.
I haven't yet mentioned the simplest kind of 'speed-reading' of all-that of reading the book very fast, without pausing to mull anything over, and not being at all concerned at the bits that make no sense or seem dull.
I have found this method consistently valuable ever since I started A-Levels thirty years ago. When I read in this way, I don't consciously ignore anything, as I would if 'skip-reading'. This method is more passive. I make no decisions, no choices, no clever short-cuts. I let the
*This section is primarily meant for students specializing in Literature.