To take a work of art & to lavish time on it

Roger Ebert blogged last week about a four-night annotated viewing of Werner Herzog’s 1972 film Aguierre, the Wrath of God. Herzog and the young American directer Ramin Bahrani hosted a viewing of the film, pausing the DVD after every scene to discuss what happened and take questions from the audience. The opening night, they spent two hours getting through the first 17 minutes of the movie. I love Dan Visel’s thoughts on the lavishness of such a viewing: by giving a work of art more than the expected amount of attention, I think we can, in some Velveteen-Rabbit sense, make them more real, more likely to endure.

This is a fantastic idea, which makes me wish I were in Boulder to be part of it. I like the idea of this kind of slow and detailed “reading”: to take a work of art & to lavish time on it. It seems, in our age of media overload, almost luxurious: this idea of devoting so much time to one text. In eight hours, we can see four movies. To give that much time to one seems decadent. But maybe this is what works of art deserve; maybe this is how we should be reading. The problem of availability is something that seems increasingly to have been solved. To view or to read well is another kind of problem. In the past, when there was an economy based on scarcity, this might not have been as much of an issue: whatever was available was watched or read. Now we need to think about how we want to watch: we need to become better readers.

from “slow reading,” by Dan Visel, if:book, 8 April 2010

Originally published at

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