Saturday, July 02, 2005

Book Review: In praise of SLOW

As I write this review, I'm also finishing off an article about how marketers are using mobile phones to get their message across to their target audience. It's frightening.

It's not frightening what the marketers are doing, it's frightening what the public is doing. People are letting their phones grow into their lives, becoming symbiotically one with their cell, so to speak.

It's leading to an always-on world where anything is up for interruption, where you can never be sure if someone is "all there" when you're talking to them.

Enter the worldwide Slow movement. Yes, that is a capital S, and not because Slow is the name of some new deity.

In fact, if the Slow name wasn't so popular, I'd call it Sane. It's the rhythm of life our forebears have followed for centuries, and we've made it unusual by worshipping at the altar of speed and efficiency.

The concept of Slow (with a capital S) is explained in this book's introduction:

Fast and Slow do more than just describe a rate of change. They are shorthand for ways of being, or philosophies of life. Fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried and analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity. It is about making real and meaningful connections - with people, culture, work, food, everything. The paradox is that Slow does not always mean slow. As we shall see, performing a task in a Slow manner often yields faster results. It is also possible to do things quickly while maintaining a Slow frame of mind.


The movement is made up of people like you and me who want to live better in a fast-paced, modern world. That is why the Slow philosophy can be summed up in a single word: balance. Be fast when it makes sense to be fast, and be slow when slowness is called for. Seek to live at what musicians call the tempo giusto - the right speed."

Carl Honore takes you on a magnificent trip through the burgeoning Slow movement, from Europe's Society for the Deceleration of Time to Japan's Sloth Club, to Tantric sex workshops in London, SuperSlow exercise studios in New York City, and - of course - a long, leisurely meal in the south of Italy.

Honore is a visual journalist - a rare talent among non-fiction writers. He takes you through a potentially bewildering array of facts and figures in a cinematic style. You're learning, but you feel like you're on holiday.

Slow, he explains, is not a headquartered movement, rather it is a collection of movements in the same direction - towards a more balanced, healthy life.

In ten chapters we explore the impact of Slow on cooking and eating, urban planning, healthcare, sex, work, leisure and raising children.

This book is very similar to The Joy of Laziness but where Laziness preaches somewhat (the authors are, after all, doctors), Slow simply narrates. Honore doesn't come across as a rabid evangelist for the church of Slow; instead he's a sometimes slightly skeptical everyman observing a movement, comparing it to his own lifestyle and making changes where it makes sense.

There's a reason this book has been out since December and I'm only reviewing it in July: it's a big book. Perhaps that's a deliberate move on the part of the publishers; after all, the print is fairly large and the book could've been printed smaller (would've saved a few trees, no doubt!). But maybe this book is saying, "Are you ready to slow down?" After all, there is a price to pay for a healthier lifestyle - cutting out the clutter, and taking time for what's important.


At 2:12 pm, Blogger Whetam Knauckweirst said...

Excellent review! I've seen this book in my local bookstore and have been very curious about it. I will be checking out more about this Slow movement. I remember a few years ago reading and really enjoying Milan Kundera's novel Slowness, which is very much a part of this theme.

At 11:49 pm, Blogger Jack Yan said...

It makes total sense. Plus now people might understand why I have resisted owning a cellphone. I am in control of my schedule, not the get-it-done-now mentality of the cellphone call.

At 11:50 pm, Blogger Jack Yan said...

BTW, Matthew St Amand above, weren't we in Mrs Franklin's class in 1978?

At 12:37 pm, Blogger Simon said...

Thanks for the comments Matt and Jack. In fact Kundera's novel is mentioned a fair bit in this book.


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