I don’t read enough anymore. I hate saying that. It’s like something uncomfortably acidic on my tongue. Rather, I don’t read enough novels. I keep plugging away at One Hundred Years of Solitude and making little headway, meanwhile I’ve been popping short fiction like candy. Daily Science Fiction has helped with that, giving me a short story per day. On the days that no fiction arrives in my inbox, I find myself picking up Lem and Le Guin, Bradbury and Chopin. That last just to add variety. One can’t live by science fiction alone.
I keep thinking about an article I’d read some years ago in The Atlantic about information overload, snippet distribution of information, and human attention span. There’s been a great deal of debate on the topic. While I at times agree with Carr (I think Benedict Andersen’s thesis bears on this— how maps, clocks, and newspapers helped allow for the rise of nationalistic thinking, and I know how even a technology such as writing itself can impact the way people think), that something may just well be happening to the way people read, I hadn’t noticed this much in my life, until now. Is my fiction consumption pattern altered by the digital age?
The best I can guess is probably, and likely not in the ways that Carr posits. I wonder if my experience really matches Carr’s thesis, or if I’ve just gotten busier. Despite my cramped schedule, I leave vast empty swathes in my day just to collect thoughts, arrange words. I will sit with a single poem for half an hour wringing every sweet drop of juxtaposition from it. These are not the habits of someone who has fundamentally altered their brain to better exist in a world of clips and headlines hanging textless. In fact, I blog about old ideas. I lay out long essays. Is this the mark of someone who can’t focus on a single task?
Maybe. When my gmail is open and facebook is up and my cell phone is on, these are hard to do. Every now and again, I shut them off, log out, and read a short story. I like a good long short story. It has cohesion and impact. Anything up to 7,000 words. Sometimes longer. Just what it needs to be.
Am I becoming more distractable? I posted my Lit Bit late. You tell me.