On being fast

Mosaic in the Centrale Montemartini
Sometimes I can be very quick. I read quite fast for example, faster than the average person. Some people have the idea that I do not read all of the books I say I read or at least suspect that I do not read a book well. 

I have had people who have asked me literally if I knew what the book was about, since I read it so fast. This in a slightly accusing tone.

The answer is yes, I read every letter and every word and I do understand and enjoy what I read, even if I do it fast. Fast is not the same as lazy or inaccurate, certainly not in this case.

Assuming I do not know what I read because I read so fast is equally stupid if I would assume people who read slower than I do are stupid and just do not understand the book. 

I also have the same problem in museums. I am not one of those people who reads all the information, so when there is an exhibition, I tend to walk through it a bit faster than people who do read all the information (but to be fair, if I would read all of it, I would still be faster). 
Not reading the extra information is a deliberate choice I make.

I suffer a little bit from professional-deformation; with everything I do I think about how I can use it in a classroom or in one of my lessons. And when I go to a museum, this is not what I want to be doing, I just want to watch and enjoy the beauty of what I see.

I also do not want to make the same mistake the German couple who sat next to me the Musée d’Orsay in Paris made. They read the entire Baedeker to eachother, but forgot to look at the painting.

Every now and then when there is something I do want to know, I’ll read the information. But for the rest I’ll skip those little cards with information so it will not distract me from what I see.

This can give some people the wrong impression.

When I was in Rome this Summer I visited the Centrale Montemartini. On the ground floor there were artefacts that had to do with Roman burial rituals. These are things I know about and I have read quite a good deal about the Romans. So I did not bother with the informationboards and just wandered through the exposition.

There was a Dutch couple there that meticulously read every card with information. When I was on my way back the woman said to the man: ‘Look, that lady is already finished on this floor and she came in after us.’ The man replied, rather smugly ‘Well, then I suppose she does not enjoy it as much as we do’. 

I could have explained of course. I also could have put that man in his place by telling him I am a historian and I did not need to read it since I already know these things. 

I did no such thing. The man was so happy with the idea he and his wife were doing this museum thing in a better way than I was, I just let him. 
I just hope they had a lovely day.


  1. I also read fast. :) And it does produce some criticism...like at the end of the year when people say, "I can't believe you read so many books!" Like I've committed a crime. I want to say, "I can't believe you didn't read any books at all." Because, to me, that is a crime. :)

    (And I like to wander through museums without reading every single word on every single placard, too; I like to look at the art and make up my own mind about it, not necessarily read what others have to say about it.)

    1. Exactly, like we would tell a lie about how many books we read! Could it be jealousy, you think? People who think they need to read more or ought to read more but don't and then feel bad about it when they hear how much we read?
      People are weird.
      And I agree with what you say about making uo your own mind, I also prefer that. Only when I need some information on the who and what I'll read the placards.

      Kind regards,

  2. I think people just lack imagination and think their pace is 'normal' - they literally cannot imagine that someone might do things at another pace. - When it comes to museums, I'm a mix - I like to read explanations or listen to them on audiostick just because sometimes they provide interesting extra information, but wouldn't religiously read every word... and if something doesn't interest me or I already know it, I'll skip that. Lovely blog, by the way - I came here via a link a friend posted on Facebook.

    1. I think you are right about this, Ginette. Most people use themselves as the norm of normal and just cannot imagine that other people do things differently.

      Thank you very much for your compliment and for leaving a comment, I appreciate it!

      Kind regards,


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