Guilty

Turning, one evening, from my phone to a book, I set myself the task of reading a single chapter in one sitting. Simple. But I couldn’t. There was nothing wrong with my eyes. No stroke or disease clouded my way. Yet – if I’m being honest – the failure was also not a surprise.

Paragraphs swirled; sentences snapped like twigs; and sentiments bled out. The usual, these days. I drag my vision across the page and process little. Half an hour later, I throw down the book and watch some Netflix…

So, it’s been unnerving to realize: I have forgotten how to read – really read – and I’ve been refusing to talk about it out of pride…

Online life makes me into a different kind of reader – a cynical one. I scrounge, now, for the useful fact; I zero in on the shareable link. My attention – and thus my experience – fractures. Online reading is about clicks, and comments, and points. When I take that mindset and try to apply it to a beaten-up paperback, my mind bucks.

Author Nicholas Carr writes that, “digital technologies are training us to be more conscious of and more antagonistic toward delays of all sorts.” We become, “more intolerant of moments of time that pass without the arrival of new stimuli.” So, I throw down the old book, craving mental Tabasco sauce. And yet not every emotion can be reduced to an emoji, and not every thought can be conveyed via tweet.

~ Michael Harris, “I have forgotten how to read.” For a long time Michael Harris convinced himself that a childhood spent immersed in old-fashioned books would insulate him from our new media climate – that he could keep on reading in the old way because his mind was formed in pre-internet days. He was wrong.

Read on: “I Have Forgotten How to Read.” (The Globe and Mail, Feb 9, 2018)

 

 

Comments

  1. May I never ever be so afflicted!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. While we talk about forgetting how to read, we must sure give the credits to digital media for having made us realize that we are being sucked into a whirlpool of everything “e-“.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, I recognise that. What a great article. My own research told me that a large percentage of folks don’t read books at all or maybe just one a year. Not good news for us about-to-be-published authors?!

    Forgotten how to read, and soon we’ll have forgotten how to spell. Then will come writing. Until finally we forget how to talk (and BTW we’ve already forgotten how to listen!)

    DOOOOOOMED!!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. such a sad loss, and i can see how the shift can so easily occur. i have a love for books, so i hope that i am never afflicted in this way.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is fascinating! I have only just re-begun to read novels again after many years of being more of a movie (Netflix) watcher.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I get this from time to time. Struggling with Silas Marner right now. I’m not sure if it’s the language, the cramped typeface or the phenomenon Harris is describing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It wasn’t until I started to write long fiction that I realized how bad my reading skills had become. I skipped over words like they weren’t even there, until they WEREN’T there and my cursory proofreading didn’t even see they were missing. Very scary. I had to train myself how to read again, slowly, with attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally get it. I’m there right now. I force myself to back up, and back way up to force myself to slow down and read the words.

      Like

      • HH can speedread AND remember what he read – it’s amazing and blxxy scary! He is also the worst offender in things grammar and syntax. It makes my blood boil…. We’re both dyslexics but I am aware of it and control (usually) all my writing before sending off; Hero Husband however just has to get ‘it done’ and he doesn’t see it at all…. I’m proofreading his important documents and I slightly fear that this ‘cavalier attitude’ might come (partially) from just over-flying texts instead of REALLY reading them.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting! I used to be able to pick up a book and be totally absorbed in it for a few minutes. I could pick it up and put it down, and know exactly where I was in it. Not so now!
    Now I have to set aside ‘reading time’.
    There is a wearing away of our ability to pay attention…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Also …. There is a difference between telling ourselves “I am reading the book” and actually reading the book. I think we get lost in our head talk more and more these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Phone and laptop in a different room works for me. And the fact that I still read from actual books, with pencil in hand, helps. I still can’t get myself to read on a screen. Unless it’s an online thing of course.

    It was something my son said few years ago. After almost 10 years of being apart. One of the first things he told me was, “Mommy, we had your books. I would go through them at night. Running my fingers on your notes in pencil on every page, rereading what you underlined.”

    It will always be the old fashioned book for me.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Don’t worry. It is nothing more than an evolutionary step as we make our way back to being like rats, responding to stimuli and making their way through a maze in a lab. Actually, worry a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Its been that way abut 10 years for me. Since computers became a big part of my life, I just browse around for snippets. Two years ago I picked up The Road, Cormac McCarthy’s book. Supposed to be a good quick read. All I could get was halfway though. I think its still sitting there on the floor at the end of the couch, spine broken.
    The only books I’ve read the last ten years all the way through are books I had already read.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. No need for Farenheit 451. Electronics are doing an adequate job of “burning” paperbacks! I’m guessing that ebooks are a sort of halfway house. Sometimes I read them, but it’s just not the same as curling up in a chair with a paperback. As an author, I find it exceedingly depressing at the thought I’ll probably never do a booksigning in a bookstore, which is something I’ve dreamed of for many years D:

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It’s funny. A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine gave an update on his reading list for the year (he originally posted on FB a picture of the 11 books he planned to read this year). He read three of them in January. I asked him how the hell he managed to do that and work and share household duties with his wife, etc. He said it was relatively easy: He commutes to work. Hates commuting so immerses himself in reading. I *almost* felt like getting myself a job in Montreal so I could read… how bass-ackward is that?

    That said, I am on my 5th book for the year – I will admit the first 3 were not overly long, but that’s beside the point! I have been trying to make time to read – pushing aside all the other taskes that *must* get done. It ain’t easy…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Smiling. It ain’t easy. I get that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dale; that’s the spirit – never ever stop reading. And although I don’t condemn Kindle users and e-readers (and in a short while this might indeed be the only available reading to me due to my bad eye-sight) I ADORE having a real book in my hands, or at least a paperback, sticking little notes in it, pencil something in, come back to it….. it’s so civilised, don’t you think?
      I must have read at least 12 books in 2018 already, find it a bit difficult to read more than a chapter or paragraph of Be Glad You’re Neurotic (A Dave suggestion – ‘worst library books ever’) but getting into the brain’s spirit of oneself is quite interesting too. I find that maybe I’m a neurotic too…. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh, I won’t! I think I was most impressed by François’ list because they were not namby-pamby books to boot!
        I’m with you on the e-readers. Though, to be hones, a lot less heavy to tote on vacation 😉 I also ADORE the feel and smell of a real book.
        I love when suggestions of authors come my way and expand my reading horizons. To think I once read mostly historical romances and now Just. Can’t. OK… maybe one in a blue moon! So… do I check out “Be Glad You’re a Nerotic” or no? 😀
        Wow… I used to read that much too. Now, I spend so much time on-line reading blogs that I end up feeling guilty that I can write my name in the dust on my furniture so don’t sit back with a book…

        Liked by 2 people

        • 🙂 You see that’s what I call ‘Glück im Unglück’ (luck in an unlucky situation): My eyesight is so poor that I probably could read a whole novella in the dust on my furniture except I don’t see the dust!!!! Ain’t I so lucky? The said book was written in 1936….!!! I had to get it from TX – and it arrived in pretty nickel condition – the one upsetting thing was the sticker over the spine which took off half the book when I tried to undo it… 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

          • I hear you. There are quite a few “Glück im Unglück” situations out there 😉
            Ahhh… but should I invest time and energy with it? Is it worthwhile?
            That totally sucks. I would have a hissy fit if that happened to me. What were they thinking to stick a sticker on a book? Heresy.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Oh Dale, we develop quite a ‘love-affair’ here on reading!
            🙂 It’s really funny when one thinks about it. I bought the book because of one of Dave’s posts about the ‘worst books in libraries’ and this one was so ‘annointed’ with remarks by a true neurotic that it made me wonder about the content of said book. So I looked it up and ordered a ‘used’ copy….. And THEN my book (a 1974 edition, all the same!!!) arrived with this terrible and quite large sticker covering the spine and front/back cover. So, the very same thing happened to me in a different way – a ‘disfigured book’ – only in my case it’s not a problem. I doubt that anybody would want to read it after me…. And I read it in homeopathic doses; it’s not my ‘regular’ fare but I find it, at the same time, quite fascinating and something I would NEVER have be acquainted with had it not been for that ‘silly’ (= funny) post. If you can wait, I might be able to tell you much later if it is worth reading…. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

          • You have to admit, this blogosphere we are part of is quite fantastic in widening our horizons, offering new possibilities and experiences. And a great reading list!
            I just love that you felt compelled to go further after reading about it. I so that too. I’m part of Friday Fictioneers and there are a number of published authors amongst the participants. I’ve read most of their books…

            Liked by 2 people

          • I agree. I admit it too!

            Liked by 1 person

          • 😀
            You better… you’re one of those fabulous “suppliers”!

            Liked by 2 people

          • Laughing.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Dale, is your blog deleted? I just wanted to ‘visit’ you and WP says that you’re no longer….. I also had AGAIN probs with WP, had to sign in, instead of the site just popping up, didn’t deliver the comments…. Maddening!

            Liked by 2 people

          • Oh no! I think it’s because I updated my name to A DAlectable Life… So weird.
            See this comment is here and your other one is in yellow so that I have to approve it. So very weird…

            Liked by 1 person

          • Another typo, sorry: …. have been acquainted…

            Liked by 1 person

          • 😁

            Like

  15. Seeing this more in my 15yr old’s generation than in me. We buy her books all the time and last Christmas she finally fell in love with a book and enjoyed it! I was very happy because it is a gift that is slowly dying.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh, this is familiar. While I have the time to read, between audiobooks and Kindle, my print books languish, save in the hands of Chris who still prefers them. But I don’t berate myself – I’m still getting my reading fix. And I still have a great library from which to grab a good read in print, should the craving for paper resume 😉 Aloha, David.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I thought it was just me and the electroshock that made it hard to read anymore. What if this techno-dyslexia is part of it? Oh, dear.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. David, I seem to be on a warpath with WP…. didn’t get any updates, had to ‘sign in’ AGAIN, and most maddening, my comment of yesterday has totally vanished in the air. Not a word of my ‘Monday novella’…. What good is it to comment when they are dsappearing? Another blogger wrote that she had a bizarre comment on her last post not being ‘clean’…. Nobody knows where THAT came from….. Was there a ‘universal’ and undetected earth-sphere-eternity-quake?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. True and so sad…I had similar thoughts the other day trying to read a great “real” book (A Man Called Ove) a friend gave me. And haven’t read a newspaper in years…it’s all “instant” news, and there’s no going back.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Trying to get out of the boat skimming over e-everything after a few years of circumstances that froze my ability to concentrate even on a TV screen. I just recently picked an old book off my bookshelf, Justine, and have renewed my love for words so well written. I just went over to Facebook this morning and became quite nauseous.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I, too, find it more difficult to read printed books. Perhaps we grow accustomed to the intense contrast of the LCD screen…

    Liked by 1 person

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