Friday, June 19, 2009

Birth of the Slow Reading Movement (The Longest Story ever Told)

A shortage of oddities has compelled Ripley Entertainment, parent of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, to send great weird hunters across the land in search of strangeness. Seems Ripley’s has been opening so many new museums of curiosities that their collection of bizarreness is being spread thin and needs to be beefed up, according to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal.

They need look no further than Opium magazine, Issue 00, The Infinity Issue, featuring The Longest Story Ever Told: Estimated Reading Time: 1,000 Years.

The story is nine words long.

Before you sign up for a master class at Evelyn Wood Speed Reading school, be forewarned that no matter how hard you try you cannot read this nine word story in less than the appointed 1,000 years.

The writer is San Francisco-based conceptual artist, journalist, and diabolically inspired Jonathan Keats who in the cover to the magazine has embedded the nine word saga.

Wired reports:

“The printing process in question is a simple but, as usual with Keats, pretty clever idea. The cover is printed in a double layer of standard black ink, with an incrementally screened overlay masking the nine words. Exposed over time to ultraviolet light, the words will be appear at different rates, supposedly one per century.”

“The precise quantity of ink covering each word is different, so that the words will appear one at a time,” Keats said. “Provided that your copy of Opium is kept out in the open, and regularly exposed to sunlight over 1,000 years to be read progressively."

One may have to smoke opium to have the patience to read the story to the end - or perceive to have done so.

“The high-quality acid-free paper on which Opium is printed will certainly last that long,” Keats assured the anxious. Then, dashing all peace of mind, he added “Whether humankind will, of course, remains an open question.”

Keats is not your average reader-writer. It has never occurred to me to copyright my mind, try to pass a Law of Identity, or attempt to genetically engineer God. But they have to Keats. So, what’s the point?

“Like most people, I live my life in a rush, consuming media on the run,” Keats admitted. “That may be fine for reading the average blog,” he said, “but something essential is lost when ingesting words is all about speed. My thousand-year story is an antidote. Given the printing process I’ve usPost Optionsed, you can’t take in more than one word per century. That’s even slower than reading Proust.”

Yes, reading should never be about speed. Yet this is a cruel man. He doesn’t even provide a plot summary. So, after waiting with baited breath, century by century, we will either be blissfully satisfied at the outcome of this tale or bitterly disappointed to have invested so much time and for what?

I’ll wait for the reviews.

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