Frasier ( Son #1) has often told me that people are not reading less now but rather, reading differently. He cites his own reading habits here – and many of his hipster friends – who may dip in and out of many respected, intellectual websites and blogs/instagram accounts daily but not necessarily read an actual book with any degree of regularity. But is the ability to settle down and enjoy a longer body of work for pleasure gradually being edged out by all these shorter blasts online?
Is there a case to be made about our attention spans atrophying since the onset of the internet?
I’ll try to keep this brief …
At the risk of sounding like I was raised at the turn of the century, I recall many hours where I lost track of time as a 10 year old, lying like a languid cat in the V part of a tree branch: reading, swinging my legs and swigging cream soda. I’m not saying I was reading Proust incidentally; in fact I was quite likely tucking in to an original Nancy Drew or the much edgier ‘Dana Girls’ whom I preferred, but were much harder to find. I then went on to more acceptable classics like Huck Finn which I adored and read multiple times; Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck and Alan Garner’s The Owl Service followed, all hunted out at the library entirely of my own volition. (On the guidance of my brother who helped me obtain my first, salmon coloured library card I had started with the Freddy the Pig shelf and read every one in the series.)
Yes, I was a badass there’s no getting away from it …
The point is, it was FUN and, as I now realize, meditative at the same time.
As I matured, there were comic books in my collection as well (Beano or Dandy anyone?) as well as piles of teen and music magazines.
(I was one of the only girls in high school who read both Sounds and New Musical Express – before it was NME – from cover to cover every week and especially enjoyed the ritual of returning home and therefore being seen in the street with both papers tucked under my arm). I was now ready, should any debates arise about the actual contribution of Robert Fripp to The Flying Lizards. (Ideally, these conversations would be introduced by dark-haired, rumpled yet intelligent lager louts with eyes the colour of sea glass, often smelling strongly of Brut …)
Bottom line? I will honestly admit that since this time – and, um, the onset of the internet – I do think that my own reading habits have morphed into something quite different. Not negative. Different. I read many things online too as Frasier suggests (so in that way I’d say I am reading more) but I also savour the time I can spend with a book. It still feels comforting to me and also offers the promise of being transported or learning something. Which I like.
And if you have managed to read this far, perhaps you agree …?