Centireading

February 13, 2015 § Leave a comment

TIL about centireading.

After a hundred reads, familiarity with the text verges on memorisation – the sensation of the words passing over the eyes like cud through the fourth stomach of a cow. Centireading belongs to the extreme of reader experience, the ultramarathon of the bookish, but it’s not that uncommon. To a certain type of reader, exposure at the right moment to Anne of Green Gables or Pride and Prejudice or Sherlock Holmes or Dune can almost guarantee centireading. Christmas is devoted to reading books we all know perfectly well. The children want to hear the one story they have heard so many times they don’t need to hear it again.

By the time you read something more than a hundred times, you’ve passed well beyond “knowing how it turns out”. The next sentence is known before the sentence you’re reading is finished. As I reread Hamlet now, I know as Gertrude says, “Why seems it so with thee?” that Hamlet will say “Seems, Madam? Nay it is. I know not seems.” I know as Bertie asks “What are the chances of a cobra biting Harold, Jeeves?” that Jeeves will answer: “Slight, I should imagine, sir. And in such an event, knowing the boy as intimately as I do, my anxiety would be entirely for the snake.” Centireading reveals a pleasure peculiar to text lurking underneath story and language and even understanding. Part of the attraction of centireading is that it provides the physical activity of reading without the mental acuity usually required.

Does this apply only to serious, classic literary works? Because I know some people who have read Order of the Phoenix several times. While I don’t think I would ever pursue such a feat, I do sometimes pick up a book and read a chapter or a few hundred pages just to partially relieve a story I love very much. To me, that also gives the pleasure that is beyond the text itself.

P.S. Is there a word for watching a Simpsons episode 100 times? Asking for a friend.

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