Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Can't Read Anymore

So, that's not entirely true. I'm still literate, but 2008 has been a bleak year for me in terms of readership. I have Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter to thank for my dwindling attention span. I don't know if you've noticed, but the internet is highly addictive. Now, I'm not one of those poor iPhone-owning saps who walks around checking their e-mail every five seconds, but when I'm at work, I am constantly plugged-in.

In more ways than one, the internet is an amazing tool. One can educate herself on just about anything under the sun: there's an endless array of information. We're reminded to take everything we read on Wikipedia with a grain of salt, but I can't help but read an entry as it's usually the first thing that appears when I want to do a search for, say, Rasputin. So who knows if all the knowledge I'm amassed on important topics like Gout can really be considered knowledge.

Ultimately, I'm obsessed with the connectivity of the internet. At any moment, I can keep tabs on all my friends and acquaintances. I can exchange ideas with people I barely know. Hell, I've even fostered friendships purely online. (Luckily, these have developed into real-life friendships as well). But all these clicks of my mouse and the comforting sound of keyboard has made me impossible to entertain. I can no longer read novels. If I'm not enraptured by the first page, I feel a wave of disgust come over me. Rageful, I want to throw the book out of a speeding train.

(Side note: Buffy the Vampire Slayer also gets an honorable mention for detering me from my literary purusits. I don't know if you remember, but I started watching the series back in June, and I finished the complete series---all seven seasons---last week. I don't regret watching the entire series. Buffy has become a very important part of my cultural topography . . . but seven seasons, at about thirteen episodes a season, in forty-five minute increments: let's see, that's about . . . um . . . I can't do the math. Let's just say it's a lot of time).

This year, I've done a better job of trying to be more social and see more of my friends, regardless of inclimate weather or lack of sleep. On top of that, I try to get my poor, poor butt to the gym at least three times a week. I also, as of the last eight months, have enjoyed the company of a very lovely, miraculous young man, also known as my boyfriend. Oh, and then there's my job, where I read mostly terrible manuscripts and am oftentimes discouraged with the future of literature as a whole. I'm a busy girl! I don't have time to read.

It's easy for me to forget what a voracious reader I used to be. That upon reading Mrs. Dalloway for the first time as a Junior in high school, I devoted my entire summer before my senior year to reading everything Virginia Woolf ever wrote. And I mean that: every diary entry, every letter, every novel, every work of nonfiction, all collected essays, etc etc etc. I basically read a book or more a day. In addition to my self-imposed Woolf symposium, I managed to read a contemporary novel here and there: namely, Middlesex, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay.

So what the hell happened?

The Internet happened.
My adult life happened.
New York happened.
Life happened.

In conclusion, I'd like to give a shout out to the ten books I began this year . . .
and never finished:

Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Wings of the Dove, by Henry James
The Sleepwalkers, by Hermann Broch
The Book of Memories, by Peter Nadas
Sentimental Education, by Gustave Flaubert
The Confessions of Nat Turner, by William Styron
Loving, Living and Partygoing, by Henry Green
Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill

For the record! I did read:

Roberto Bolano's massive 2666,
Werner Herzog's brief but beautiful Of Walking in Ice,
One of the most terrifying novels I've ever read, Never Let Me Go,
The charming, whimsical Zuleika Dobson,
and, my favorite read of the year, the devestating and ultimate Sophie's Choice.

It's on, facebook. It is ON.


m said...

i am having this crisis as well! i spend the whole day on the computer and then come home to spend my whole night . . . on the computer. i blame the same life changes and social networking sites (although i also have a tumblr. dear god.)

i've now stopped taking my ipod on the train so that i read on my commute. it's actually working pretty well for me, as i have read "interpreter of maladies" in two days' worth of commutes.

you still read more than most of us, my dear. take comfort in that.

maitresse said...

I love it! I empathize. and I'm inspired. Here's to lots of reading time in 2009!!!

L. said...

Never Let Me Go is wonderful, isn't it? The title always reminds me of the Depeche Mode song "Never Let Me Down," which is also wonderful. My reading has also suffered this year...maybe there's a trend with people in literary industries (well, I compliment myself with that) and the lack of attention span for the written word...

Snobber said...

m: glad to know i'm not alone. my ipod broke, so i've been trying to read on the train, but nothing holds my attention. i love interpreter of maladies though. what a beautiful book, i liked it better than the namesake.

maitresse: that reminds me, i need to read your woman, cahun!!!

L.: never let me go was so beautiful and so fucking awful at the same time. i had nightmares for weeks.

cake. said...

in 2005 i made a goal for myself to read 50 books in one year. i only made it to 33. however, 4 years later, i'm finally going to make it {i've got two more books to go!} it really takes a lot of diligence and patience to get away from all of the worldly distractions and get lost in a book {or two}, but once you really start it's hard to stop. so i say, stick with it!!!

your 'unfinished' list looks wonderful and a lot of those are on my list for next year. since i made my goal of 50 this year, i think that i'm going to start reading a lot of classics that i've somehow missed out on.

António Erre said...

I am just passing through a "crisis" like yours. In my case I just can´t choose among the book offer. It is shrinking my capacity of choice. They don´t bring me any hope of turning me a better person or clever or happy. I just stare at them thinking about the number of pages someone had written. They are bigger than ever and more alike than ever. Everyone seems to do books, but as the song says, "not for me".
I feel I can´t concentrate.
The world changed. New forms or types of information and cultural goods are at reach of everyone and everyone seems to just "buy" them and I wonder if the information and cultural goods wouldn´t kill the real interest and joy of study and learning and the delight of culture. Just a thought...

Snobber said...

cake: love your blog! do you mind if i add you? 33/50 sounds pretty damn good. as for me, i've resorted to graphic novels for now---the watchmen.

antonio: i think you're right about the proliferation of the internet killing one's impulse to study and seek . . . we have to figure out a way to use it to our advantage, in smarter ways. thank you for reading!

Cooper Snow said...

I have just recently realized that I'm unable to do almost anything anymore due to my attention span. I never thought it could change so I just thought the books I was reading or the movies I was watching were boring. I'm having extreme difficulty reading comics right now, within 3 panels I'm not even taking in what the words are saying. I don't quite get how this relates to Social networking but it would make sense seeing as I check my Facebook like every 15 minutes and am on the computer for most of the day. How are you working on fixing it your attention span??