On taking a ‘digital sabbath’

There’s probably something disingenuous about finding this delicious reading, in lieu of actually reading something delicious (say, a book), but here are some folks rueing the fact that reading ain’t what it used to be:

  • A little night reading
    “I have become conscious of how severely my reading has degraded, how deformed my capacity for sustained focus has become. I keep nearly a dozen books on my desk, in various states of examination, and all too often pick one up in the wee hours only to find that, three pages in, I have no real memory of the words that have just passed before my eyes.”
  • The new rules of engagement
    “This weekend I realized how much my reading habits have come to resemble my Internet-surfing. I skip from book to book, dipping in, skimming and grazing, as if each book were an article I was reading online. If the book isn’t amazing, I rarely get past the first quarter — let alone finish it. Of course, at least once in a while, I’m abandoning the book out of shrewish old age. I have less patience for terrible books than I used to. But most of the time, I have to admit, it’s not the books that are bad, it’s me: I’ve become a terrible reader.”
  • The lost art of reading
    “For many years, I have read, like E.I. Lonoff in Philip Roth’s “The Ghost Writer,” primarily at night — a few hours every evening once my wife and kids have gone to bed. These days, however, after spending hours reading e-mails and fielding phone calls in the office, tracking stories across countless websites, I find it difficult to quiet down. I pick up a book and read a paragraph; then my mind wanders and I check my e-mail, drift onto the Internet, pace the house before returning to the page. Or I want to do these things but don’t. I force myself to remain still, to follow whatever I’m reading until the inevitable moment I give myself over to the flow. Eventually I get there, but some nights it takes 20 pages to settle down. What I’m struggling with is the encroachment of the buzz, the sense that there is something out there that merits my attention, when in fact it’s mostly just a series of disconnected riffs and fragments that add up to the anxiety of the age.”

Here’s another sort of reading that I can’t resist — anything about personal libraries:

  • My Turkish library by Orhan Pamuk
    ”At the heart of my library is my father’s library. When I was seventeen or eighteen and began to devote most of my time to reading, I devoured the volumes my father kept in our sitting room as well as the ones I found in Istanbul’s bookshops. These were the days when, if I read a book from my father’s library and liked it, I would take it into my room and place it among my own books. My father, who was pleased to see his son reading, was also glad to see some of his books migrating to my library, and whenever he saw one of his old books on my bookshelf, he would tease me by saying, ‘Aha, I see this volume has been promoted to the upper echelons!’“
  • Unpacking my library
    ”So now the arduous task of refilling the books begins. First, we need to douse the whole collection to protect against silverfish (also at Mrs. TEV’s insistence). Then I need to incorporate new additions to my library into the boxes packed more than a year ago, and figure out exactly how to order the whole thing. (The previous arrangement could politely be described as half-assed, though I could always find anything.)
    “Finally, the actual placement on the shelves, which is always delayed by the very pleasant act of browsing through beloved titles. I wrote about personal libraries and their legacies a few months ago, and I’m even more mindful of this now that my daughter has been born.”

And finally, the always appealing and never quite edifying genre of writers on writing (the basic point is that there are as many writing styles as there are writers!):

  • How to write a great novel
    “Behind the scenes, many of these writers say they struggle with the daily work of writing, clocking thousands of solitary hours staring at blank pages and computer screens. Most agree on common hurdles: procrastination, writer’s block, the terror of failure that looms over a new project and the attention-sucking power of the Internet.”
  • Writers’ rooms by The Guardian (hot TFT fave!)
    “Portraits of the spaces where authors create”

2 thoughts on “On taking a ‘digital sabbath’

  1. Thanks for the links! (Speed-) read through the first three. Sigh, I know the feeling. My attention span has been ruined over the years and my mind’s just all over the place. Can’t remember the last time I read a whole book (I don’t count comics…)…and the same goes for whole albums…think I’ve reached a nadir!

  2. Yeah, you know you’re in trouble when the act of reading holds your attention more than reading itself! C’mon, gotta stir up the passion pronto if you’re going to finish all the books you have before it’s time to shuffle off the mortal coil …

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