by Will Hunter Friedman
If you are going to write a book report, close reading is the way to go. If you are studying for a test, close read to your heart’s content. If you are a lawyer and are preparing for a case, there is this thing call close reading that would probably help you out. If you’re a cool college dude who is trying to impress a girl with his knowledge of Shakespeare, close reading will lets you sound like you know what you’re talking about even if you don’t really. In summary, close reading helps with memorization and regurgitation, and with appearances. The question is, will close reading help you understand the exactly what the text says? The answer: Yes, it will. Is there a better way? YES! That is the problem. Close reading can get you to a certain point, after which it can’t help anymore. Close reading is an easy way to examine facts. After you close read, you can say “Person X is such-and-such because on page 6 of book 3 of the Blah Blah Series… ” That was a very factual explanation, Mr. Close Reader. In order to completely understand what it is I’m reading, I personally employ a much more difficult technique. Mental visualization. It may not sound like it is difficult, but it is. This is not the cheap “use your imagination” that your mom told you about when you were younger. Instead, you place yourself into the body of a character. This technique is draining and exhausting, since it will feel like you are in the story. If it is done right, you won’t be able to say things like “On page 12” or “In chapter 9.” You will have no conscious memory of reading. Instead, you will have seen everything play out from the eyes of a character, as if you were the character. This means that you will not remember who you are. You will become the character so much that you that you forget you exist. Your subconscious mind will continue to read the words on the pages, and “you” will act as the book describes. The upside is that you also won’t say “I think character Z was feeling this or that.” You will be able to say “Character Z was feeling this.” Why will you be able to say this? Because when you read, you used mental visualization and, in essence, were character Z! Do you want to know the best part? Close reading is limited to text. Mental visualization can be used for all forms of media. Who has wanted to be Luke Skywalker when he blows up the Death Star? I know I have. Using Mental Visualization, I can do that. Have any of my readers wanted to be Inigo Montoya when he duels “the Man in Black?” That is one of my favorite scenes to run through in my head. Who has seen Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr., or read the Pendergast series by Lincoln and Child? Both of these representations of the perfect detective used a form of mental visualization. It is a powerful tool, to be used when you want to know what you’re reading about. Thanks for reading! Please, comment and share your stories and ideas.