Source, last paragraph: 'Life Is Short, Proust Is Long', by James Camp, 2014 April 1

Nabokov didn’t conclude that we should give up reading. He said, rather, that we should do more of it: “A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.” The complicated work was part of the complicated pleasure, [1.] the waste of time integral to the feeling that it was well spent.

The inefficiency was also [2.] high design. It must be hard to derive a business model from these contradictions—ask someone in publishing—and, lately, Spritz has been revising. Can “Atlas Shrugged” really be read in a day? “Technically it’s possible,” the text now reads. “You might want to take some breaks though. You might even want to stop to smell the roses.” When contacted, Spritz stressed that there is a pause button.

The bolded confuses me. 1. What do these conflicting words mean altogether (eg 'waste of time' and 'well spent')? How do you determine/deduce how to conciliate them?

2. I'm guessing that high expresses how the writers design[ed] this reading inefficiency, by choosing to use convoluted language? Yet how does high mean this? The following seems the only possibility from ODO, but am I right? If so, how does it cohere with the context?

3. high {adjective} = Great in rank, status, or importance

  • People waste time feeling that they have it well-spent. This is what I get from the sentence.
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 21:59
  • One person's waste of time is another's well spent.
    – Jim
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 1:42

2 Answers 2


The paradox (the rereaders have wasted their time rereading yet they have spent that time well) is meant to parallel the "complicated work" with its "complicated pleasure".

"High design" is transcendent design, design contemplating itself. Complex and contrived. It's "meta", bro.


I think he's saying that the complication in the prose introduces an inefficiency in the reading process, and that this very complication is also part of what makes readers feel their reading is worthwhile.

As far as "high design" is concerned, I'm guessing the writer's using "high" in the same way as it's used in "high art", meaning that the complication is both deliberate and extremely ... admirably ... clever.

All with a heavy coating of irony, of course.

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