April 17, 2011

In Praise of Slow - Carl Honoré

Before I begin this review, I should probably say that Honoré is preaching to the converted in my case! Maybe that is why this book appealed to me so much when I saw it sitting on my friend's coffee table last week and asked to borrow it.

The basic premise of this book is that we live in a world obsessed with speed - that all domains of our lives are dominated by the clock and by our need to do everything faster. He starts out by explaining why this is detrimental to our health (physical and mental), our relationships with others, and the quality of everything we do, as well as our enjoyment of life. He then goes into different movements around the world aimed at slowing down different aspects of our lives - food, cities, mind and body, medicine, sex, work, leisure, and child-rearing - and makes connections between the different movements, connecting them all by the underlying philosophy that if you slow things down, you can enjoy them more. He also clarifies that he isn't a Luddite (there is even a plug for book blogging - not only is reading a Slow hobby, but then you slow it down even more when you reflect on what you have read); nor does he say that everything you do has to be at a slow pace, rather there is a "Tempo Giusto" or proper speed for everything.

As he said, he is preaching to the converted in my case. I work 4 days a week by choice, and my job (as a homecare physiotherapist) allows me to take time with each patient; I cook most of my food from scratch; I enjoy Slow hobbies such as reading, music, and gardening; I drive the speed limit (usually); I no longer have a television that works; and while I volunteer and participate in activities outside of work, I am nowhere near as scheduled as I was 10 years ago and have learned how to say No. My friends laughed at me when I picked up this book, telling me that I was the last person who needs to read it!

I especially enjoyed the section talking about the Tempo Giusto movement in classical music. Basically this says that all music written before 1900 is today played about twice as fast as it was originally intended to be played; and that while the increased speed allows for virtuosity, the music loses meaning when it is sped up too much. I was at a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony a few weeks ago, and while I came out of the concert impressed with the performance, during it I found it to be too rushed (at least 3 out of the 4 movements) and that I didn't have time to enjoy the music. At a music lesson last week, my teacher told me that one piece by Bach I am working on is "basically correct, but needs to be about twice as fast." I should come back to him next lesson and tell him that I am practicing Tempo Giusto!

The book itself is very readable, well paced, and well organized. Overall, an enjoyable read. And with one week left until Easter, my fiction fast is almost over. I have had some cravings along the way, but have managed to hold out; and have discovered some excellent books along the way. I've placed a couple of fiction holds on books at the library - I just hope that my turn doesn't come up before next weekend!

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