Actual Reading Time vs. Fictional Thinking Time

Auerbach suggested a possible new “project” for me, which was to investigate time (in a Good Old Neon kind of way) in To The Lighthouse. Would try to measure how long scenes took in the novel’s time, versus how many words the scene took, and how much time it took to read that many words. If the scene included a flash back, you might also try to measure how long that flashbacked-scene is relative to the scene in which it occurs. I’m not sure what this would accomplish but it might be nice to get some hard numbers.

Good Old Neon tells us that an impossible amount of information occurs in a single moment of time which can’t be conveyed in writing. (Or put it this way which sounds a little like Heisenberg: that writing can convey the information experienced in a moment but not in the time that moment occurs in, or it can convey the time it occurs in but not the information.) This is probably a scandalously awful or dumb thing to do but maybe you could put some numbers to that…. Maybe sometimes what occurs in a moment takes pages and pages to describe while other times — perhaps this is what action novels are about– words have trouble keeping up.

Maybe this is the same question or maybe it is something different: how much would fictional time need to be slowed or dilated in order for fictional thought to be intelligible to a reader, that is, in order for actual reading time to be equal to fictional thinking time? Anyway — To The Lighthouse. Maybe it’s time could be contrasted with another novel’s, say a Bloom (or Stephen) chapter from Ulysses — or Mrs. Dalloway?

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