When I think of quickness, it exhilarates me and it scares me. The idea that there is movement, motion forward, going somewhere different than where I currently am – that is exciting. However, this speed, this moving, it can also be scary, especially when it feels like you hardly have a chance to breathe or form a thought. Speed, though, helps to chop out the unnecessary detail, especially when it comes to literature. It gives the illusion of movement, of plot, of a plot that is gripping. It gives this idea that you better pay attention and soak in the words, because soon, so soon, the words will move on, and you will either move on with them or be left behind.
In his book, Calvino talks about the idea of a straight line. I think this is a great way to think about quickness. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. When it comes to speed, taking the scenic route, while nice, slows down the movement. There is a sort of digression. Calvino writes at one point: “If a straight line is a shortest distance between two fated and inevitable points, digressions will lengthen it” (47). Digression represents the details – the dirty details that we step into and find ourselves sometimes having trouble getting out of.
With regards to quickness, Calvino also mentions that “a swift piece of reasoning is not necessarily better than a long-pondered one. Far from it. But it communicates something special that is derived simply from its very swiftness” (45). Long-pondered information has much value, but there is something about a new and emerging thought – something fresh and young and alive. This sense of life is what we get from Calvino’s idea of quickness, this idea of always being on our toes.
A recent book I read that I think illustrates the idea of quickness is The Hunger Games. In this novel, we literally have a story about fighting to live, fighting against the very opposite of quickness or movement, death. Therefore, the characters are propelled forward to counter their deaths, they have to move quickly in order to survive. When they first enter the Hunger Games, a reality show in this novel where kids fight against each other to survive and win fame and fortune, they literally have to be the fastest competitor to escape into safety and acquire the best provisions. Speed is important in this novel. It is told in a swift manner, where suspense is highly present, but the actions the characters take, themselves, are also quick. Instead, it is us as readers who have to fight to keep up with all these intense ideas – the idea that children are dying, a notion that is very heavy. If we stop to think too much about it, to get caught up in how uncomfortable it makes us feel, we will miss out on the story. Therefore, we must be quick with the characters. We must starve with them, run with them, fight with them, or else we will be the ones left behind.