On numerous occasions I’ve argued for micro-reading over macro, albeit not in such terminology. In the context of reading strategies, the framework of micro vs macro does indeed exist, although I’ll subject it to a bit of old-fashion abuse, so bear with me.
Micro reading: reading for the nuances; the capturing of the building blocks independently of the whole.
Macro reading: reading for the main idea; emphasis on the narrative and overall structure.
Pay attention to the use of these words, as they differ in but one vowel.
I prefer and argue for the micro way of reading. That is, appreciate every moment independently, without holding it accountable to some greater purpose. Perceive every word, phrase, paragraph, idea, remark, pun, allusion, independently of the underlying narrative or the unifying structure.
To foster this type of reading is to relax your expectation for strong cohesion, for an explosive finale, for the tying of all those loose ends, while at the same time, to derive pleasure all the more.
Now, these components are not exclusive. You may receive some combination of both micro and macro-reading satisfaction in any work of literature.
However, from personal experience in a significant majority of cases, micro appreciation has shown necessary as well as sufficient for me to praise the work. Any macro solidity is just a bonus.
These days, if I don’t identify strong micro presence, I’ll more likely either abandon the work or feel a sense of malnutrition. In fact, it aligns perfectly with food poor in micronutrients: although satisfying while chewed and swallowed, I feel ultimately cheated.
Same with the literature. Any work poor in micro-elements, be it otherwise appetizing, feels cheap; as if consuming empty calories. It entails pure entertainment at little effort, common of best-seller material, or anything one might classify an ‘easy read’.
Avoid the above if you wish to develop your overall reading faculty; if you wish to constantly evolve and pursue more challenging material; not just resort to reading as merely a higher-brow form of entertainment.
In doing that, entertained you’ll still be, yet feel perpetual cognitive expansion. If that doesn’t sound desirable, I’ve no greater argument.
As for the specific elements that might constitute a quality micro-reading experience? Any of the following, while not strictly conclusive, are indicators:
- Exceptional language
- Poetic undertone. It might entail actual rhymed or blank verse, prose poetry, or an otherwise prosaic composition with an occasional alliterative touch.
- Evocative and challenging rhetoric; allusions, metaphors, puns
- Abundance of visual motives and visceral, in-depth sketches
- Honest writing. Something that feels raw at a brethren level.
And what of indicators of a macro-read?
- Average, ‘sterilized’ language
- Reads easily. Candidate for speed reading. Great (even desirable) for material of purely academic/inspirational purpose, but unfitting for literature.
- Unexceptional rhetoric
- Heavily narrative oriented.
- A translation. I often find a translation to strip the original of much micro-nutrition, leaving predominantly the main idea.
I find many highly acclaimed works to place severe emphasis on micro-pleasure: Dickens, Melville, Shakespeare, Conrad, Kafka … The best of the best integrate aspects of both. Pure macro reads, alas, are forgettable.
Questions, comments? Connect.