Saturday, February 19, 2011

Reader's Block?

When I check out Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish blog, I am invariably introduced to articles I would not otherwise discover. Most recently, comments by the British writer Geoff Dyer, who, while shaped by his wide reading, has, for whatever reason, begun to suffer, not from the usual writer's block, but from an aversion to reading.

Perhaps, as he confesses, he is overdisciminating, maybe even lazy. He feels guilty, apparently, in not being motivated to read as he did twenty years earlier. He is right in saying that much fiction being published is a waste of time. Perhaps he is impatient and thus affected by the immediate gratification we all quickly learn from the media.

There are so many options out there for anyone intellectually curious, as Dyer obviously is. It is hard to concentrate on reading because, I think, we have learned from the computerized world of messaging that speed counts; the result is a scattering of our attention. Some would say that too much reliance on the web makes our thinking shallower.

Adam Gopnik, quoting Nicholas Carr in the current New Yorker, makes this
point. I suspect that Dyer has much in common with Sven Birkerts (author of "The Gutenberg Elegies"), who laments the loss of inner life that has long been made possible by the leisurely reading of fiction.

The way the social media and even the web make being unavailable a sin has clear implications for any serious reader, who needs uninterrupted time and attention, which are all too rare given the extensive competition.

Dyer no doubt would nod in agreement at the words of Rumi (the 13th cent. Sufi mystic): "I have lived too long where I can be reached."


Ned Kessler said...

Amen. I find the idea of always being available contrary to nature.

Ned Kessler said...

Also, I love your reference to Rumi. I referred to his poem "The New Rule" in my story "Getting Out of the Boat." It affected me very much on that day.