Monday, June 27, 2011

The (Lost) Art Of Reading

Nothing beats the pleasure of holding a book: turning the pages; feeling the grain of the paper; inhaling the ink, taking the time to slow down, to embark on literary adventures. Nothing?

"In the 21st century, our dystopias imagine a world where books are forgotten," writes Johann Hari in an Op-Ed for the Independent. "The book -- the physical paper book -- is being circled by a shoal of sharks, with sales down 9 per cent this year alone. It's being chewed by the e-book. It's being gored by the death of the bookshop and the library. And most importantly, the mental space it occupied is being eroded by the thousand Weapons of Mass Distraction that surround us all. It's hard to admit, but we all sense it: it is becoming almost physically harder to read books."

Hari argues that in today's digital age -- an age of constant buzz and distraction -- we need paper books more than ever. "The paper book that doesn't beep or flash or link or let you watch a thousand videos all at once gives you the capacity for deep, linear concentration." Quoting from David Ulin's The Lost Art of Reading: "Reading is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction. It requires us to pace ourselves. It returns us to a reckoning with time. In the midst of a book, we have no choice but to be patient, to take each thing in its moment, to let the narrative prevail. We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little, by stepping back from the noise."

"It's precisely because it is not immediate -- because it doesn't know what happened five minutes ago in Kazakhstan, or in Charlie Sheen's apartment -- that the book matters," Hari adds. Like sugar or alcohol, the web brings amazing pleasures and joys, "but we need to know how to handle them without letting them addle us," he concludes -- proning a digital (detox) diet. So it's time to wrap up this post, kiss the iMac good night, grab a good book, and prendre son envol (as the title of Aurida Rouha's photo above suggests.)

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