As I brush my teeth, while I eat my cereal, on the train, as I walk down the street, before I turn the light out — one of my chief pleasures has always been burying my nose in a book a few times a day.
I just spent a few days on the beach with my pal Tommy Kane, parked side-by-side in deck chairs, drawing and reading and napping. I read a handful of books, dipping back and forth, as I often seem to do these days.
The hard part was really losing myself in a book. It wasn’t a matter of being distracted by people in thongs wandering by or the caws of seagulls. It was my brain —which increasingly finds it harder to stay connected with long passages, especially ones that aren’t moving the plot ahead but are lyrical or descriptive and celebrate the joy of language.
I don’t have ADHD. I have an iPhone.
These days I seem to read all day long. Emails, texts, blog posts, news, it’s just an endless stream of words. Every type of communication is written. I never speak on the phone anymore, I just type on the keyboard and read responses.
And all these words demand that I read them differently than I did Chaucer or Proust or Tom Wolfe. I skim, I scan, I browse for the gist. I exercise my eyeballs and flitter my fingertips. There is so much to wade through, I have to retrain my brain to suck down words like an endless skein of overcooked pasta.
This is called a pull quote.
It’s here to attract your attention and make you want to read my post. Hope it works!
And as a writer, I have to adapt to this pell-mell, distracted world. Instead of long, meandering blog posts, I should be writing listicles and giving people ten actionable tips they can tweet and share. My paragraphs should never be more than three active sentences. My titles should be pithy yet info-packed. I should avoid arcane references and worry about search engine optimization. And what is all this doing to my brain? Will I ever again be able to sink into a long novel like a warm bath and bask until my fingers pucker? Oy.
I recently heard a neurologist say that keeping up with all these Facebook posts and tweets is rewiring our brains so we struggle to delve deep when we read, and that we are in danger of losing the rich beauty and dense wisdom of great literature. And we stand in danger of becoming superficial thinkers, trite and incapable of going beyond the obvious, ping-ponging between stimuli, unsatisfiable.
Whatevs. I’m going in for a dip.