Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Pondering some of the new debates about reading (like the Atlantic article on Google making us stupid and the recent NYT piece about reading online). More thoughts percolating, but for now I'm struck by how utilitarian reading is conceived in some of these debates, especially in support of the benefits of reading online (it's quick, efficient, multiple view points, etc.), and that pleasure and aesthetics get short shrift. Not just the "curling up in a comfy chair and cracking open a tome" but also the idea of losing oneself in prose.

I've been slowly inching my way through Pynchon's Against the Day and was thinking how different the experience is to that described by the web-reading school. Pynchon must frustrate the hell out of those skimming for key points. Instead, one puts one's kayak in at the start of the sentence and just hang on as you plunge along, or perhaps bounce lightly from phrase to phrase, until one comes to a rest. Then up and over the period into the next sentence, caught in eddies and side currents, asides and digressions and qualifiers and descriptives. The fun's in the ride.

Now, if all writing and reading was like this, we'd be in trouble. There's a diversity of uses and pleasures in reading and we need to be careful to acknowledge as many as we can.

No comments: