>In her review of the new super-indie film Tiny Furniture, Manohla Dargis wrote of the writer-director-star Lena Dunham that she’s “not afraid of boring you,” a phrase I am convinced is going to come in very handy when I have to say something at least nominally nice. I’ve already used it while watching In Treatment.
Dargis meant it as a straightforward compliment, though, and I can see what she means. There are moments in film (or tv, theater, opera) where we accept being bored as either part of the work’s artistic strategy (my example of this is always Elaine May’s Mikey and Nicky, which uses our boredom to set us up for the explosive ending) or as a time-out for daydreaming until things get interesting again. That’s a lot harder to do with a book, though, because a book can’t read itself, tapping you on the shoulder when it goes back to being good. Thus the power and pleasure of skimming. While I’d never skim something I was reviewing (cross my heart), I do it all the time in private life. And if it doesn’t cause me to give up a book entirely, it frequently enough sends me back to read what I skipped once I’ve found out that it’s going to be worth it. People do get huffy about skimming though, insisting you haven’t “really read” a book if you’ve skipped the snoozy parts or ducked out before the end. But there’s reading and reading: I don’t know about you, but once I’m bored, I’ve stopped “really reading” anyway, as my awareness of my discomfort has pushed me from the world of the book.
Hazel Rochman tells everybody to skip the first chapter of Wuthering Heights. I believe I shall, should I ever try to read it again.