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Friday, December 7, 2012

76

What Happened When I Tried to Read a Whole Book

I do not blame the internet, let's be clear about that. I blame my own inability to imbibe the internet responsibly. Before the internet, I probably read two books a day. I read exceptionally quickly; I have always looked at a page, and instead of reading word-word-word I see paragraph-paragraph-paragraph and it goes in like GULP, and then I turn the page. It's a decent party trick, and it's been good to me. In recent years, I have not been good to it. If I'm doing a formal book review, I turn on "Scholar and Gentlewoman" mode, and all is well, or if it's, like, the new Zadie Smith or something, but I've almost entirely broken my ability to pleasure-read a single book in a sitting without screwing it up.

The other night, I wanted to play with it, so I picked up John Ed Pearce's "Days of Darkness: The Feuds of Eastern Kentucky," a book which (although excellent) seemed like a nice bridging mechanism between "reading a whole book" and "screwing around on Wikipedia." This is an actual account of what followed.

1. Look at cover – Is Hatfields & McCoys on Netflix Instant? I still can't believe Benedict Cumberbatch lost the Emmy to one of those guys. Is the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer up yet?

2. Hatfields & McCoys is not on Netflix Instant. It's on regular Netflix. Change queue.

3. There is a new trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness. Watch it.

4. Walter Koenig is still alive, right? He is. He's only 5'6! He was born in Chicago. It's nice to have positive representation for Russians in space things, though. Ugh, that stupid drunken stereotype in Armageddon. Like, Jesus, how do you think they managed to get Sputnik up there if they were tossing vodka bottles around constantly? What year is this, that we can't have a competent Russian astronaut in an American movie without being threatened?

5. Is there a statue for Yuri Gagarin? There is.

6. Open book – There's a map of the counties of Eastern Kentucky, the feuding counties are in grey. Hey, there's Harlan! Oh, man, Timothy Olyphant is hot. I hope there are more people from Deadwood in the new season. It's nice to see John Hawkes getting work, maybe he'll swing by.

7. Read three quarters of a page – become curious about moonshine. Are people still moonshining? Do people actually go blind from moonshine? Yes.

8. You know what was a great book about mountain men? "Christy." With that creepy song about hanging your head over and hearing the wind blow. Ugh, and they all had hookworms and were sewn into their underwear. I should read that again.

9. Read second, third, and fourth page. Flip to photo insert.

10. Is "The Turner Mansion" still around? It doesn't look like it. Which is surprising, because I would absolutely stay there if it were a historical B&B. Remember that B&B I stayed at for the wedding on the Cape? With the wicker bed? I should listen to "Vampire Weekend," it's been a while. The woman on the cover of their second album was so pretty. Did they settle that lawsuit? They did.

11. Tweet: "...attorney who put an end to the Martin-Tolliver feud by leading a small army that wiped out most of the Tollivers." That's one way to end a feud?

12. Google the two beautiful women on the last page of the photo insert whose father and brother were killed in one of the feuds. Could my hair look like that? Did they wash their hair a lot? Is that school still around? Yes. Oh, it was built specifically to bridge the feud gap for the families who sent their children there. That's neat.

13. Read fifth, sixth, and seventh page. The author clearly is on Team McCoy. "...most of the other Hatfields were little more than thugs. I cannot find grounds for admiring Devil Anse, who not only engineered the two instances of brutal murder but lacked the backbone to commit them himself and sent his underlings out to do the slaughtering." Does Costner play McCoy or Hatfield? Hatfield. Good, because I like Bill Paxton better.

14. Read eighth page. The introduction is over.

Maybe what's happening, right, is that people used to be able to know just enough. You could read the book, and know THAT AMOUNT about the feuds of Eastern Kentucky, and feel pretty good about it. But now, of course, you're aware of what's left to know, the overwhelming, "Nothing"-esque tide of data you're flicking past. That any single fragment of this or any book represents thirteen years' worth of information you do not have, but could have, if you wanted to. So how much do you actually want to know? What things are you content NOT to know? And why do you watch so much television, anyway? You could speak Mandarin by now, if you applied yourself.

15. Use "Notes" app to write: "every night, read two chapters of a book without internet access, then floss."

76 Comments / Post A Comment

Quinn A@twitter

Ugh, yes. I know that I can still read three books during an eight-hour flight, but when I have constant internet access I end up reading a book a week. I suppose I'm technically still reading constantly, but it's not the same and I really should be making more time for the former great love of my life.

wearitcounts

yes! this exact process. or when i watch anything on netflix while using the IMDb app on my phone THE ENTIRE TIME to figure out from where and how i know each and every actor in the film.

polka dots vs stripes

@wearitcounts YES. Especially TV shows, with so many guest characters - I have to look up who they are, where I know them from, what else they've done, if they're famous on their own yet, etc etc.

wearitcounts

@polka dots vs stripes yup. and then i've missed an entire scene that i'm sure was pivotal and i have to rewind everything ten times.

polka dots vs stripes

@wearitcounts I finally came to my senses and just started pausing stuff, but then 22/42 minutes to watch a tv show easily becomes 45-90.

wearitcounts

@polka dots vs stripes hahaha oh man, i totally do that too. i'm so glad i'm not the only one afflicted by this disorder.

Hamburger Hot Dog

@wearitcounts THIS. What's even more embarrassing is that often, instead of getting up and walking three feet to my laptop, I will check IMDB on my phone. It is just very important that I find out what terrible show that one guy used to be on, and even more important that I exert as little energy as possible to do it.

scrawler

@wearitcounts This has made watching movies in the theater nearly unbearable! I have to know who that actor is, but because I try to be a civilized member of society, I refrain from checking IMDB on my phone. But that doesn't stop me thinking about it and then missing the next scene. Which I then can't rewind because I'm at the movies and not in front of my tv. I have a problem.

wearitcounts

@Hamburger Hot Dog the IMDb app is proooobably the most-used app on my phone. i never use my computer. effort is for suckers.

@scrawler i almost never go to movies in theaters because i'm lame but that would totally kill me, now that i think of it.

Hamburger Hot Dog

@scrawler Yes! And then when you finally remember where you know the actor from, it takes all of your willpower not to exclaim the name of the show in question. I am very proud that I have never yelled "NUMB3RS!" out loud in a theatre, but I cannot promise that I never will.

iceberg

@Hamburger Hot Dog "Numb-three-ers!"

travelmugs

@scrawler I don't have a smartphone, and it makes me go insane in movie theatres! I was freaking out during "Lincoln" because there were so many marginally recognizable actors wearing period garb and Civil War facial hair! Like the guy who played the creepy meth addict uncle in "Winter's Bone" and the creepy cult leader guy in "Martha Marcy May Marlene" was supposed to be a comic relief character and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why he gave me the chills. Or almost laughing out loud when Adam from "Girls" was playing a legitimate telegraph morse code tapper.

Hamburger Hot Dog

@travelmugs But if you had used your phone in the theatre, you would have incurred my wrath. Fine, my wrath is mostly me fuming and wishing I had the guts to tell a stranger to turn off their damn phone, but I have a pal who actually tells people "TURN OFF YOUR PHONE" and he is my hero.

wearitcounts

@Hamburger Hot Dog i am TOTALLY that pal. i will tell someone in a theater to turn off their phone; i will tell someone on the train to move their shit off the seat; i will tell someone who parked like a jackass to park less like a jackass.

Hamburger Hot Dog

@wearitcounts I hope you can hear me clapping from all the way over here.

Springtime for Voldemort

@scrawler I have mostly solved this problem by watching things at home, where I can both rewind, AND save money.

miss buenos aires

@wearitcounts This is reason #465 why I am grateful for my husband, because I know that I can lean over in a certain way and he will whisper, "Twin Peaks, Seinfeld and the mother on Big Love." Not that I would ever not recognize Grace Zabriskie, this is just an example.

polka dots vs stripes

I read either early in the morning on weekends (although usually the above ends up happening) or right before bed, after I've already turned off my electronics for the day.

If I get interrupted while reading a book, I'll never remember what I read, so I try to stay away from the internet/other people when I want to get reading done. I've got about a 50% success rate.

KeLynn

@polka dots vs stripes - I used to be able to read an.y.where. Crowded buses! Right next to the TV! With the radio playing! But the past few years this ability has plummeted. I spent 12 hours overall on a plane a week or two ago and I read maybe 1/3 of my book. All those people around me talking and playing games and asking the attendant for snacks! Stop it! I'm trying to read!

olivebee

Number 6. YES. I have been counting down the days until Justified starts back up again. I can't wait to meet the new characters this season.

(And yes, TO is extremely attractive).

JessicaLovejoy

Oh, gawd. This. Thiiisss. I have been so worried lately about my destroyed attention span that I have also carved out specific no electronic interruption reading time.

And I can only look at my tablet during commercials breaks. How has it gone this far? It's too bad I don't have any childhood brain scans, I honestly believe there would a noticeable difference in whatever part controls concentration/attention.

Mae
Mae

@JessicaLovejoy Oh God, me too. I've started forcing myself to read long novels again, because I got so worried that my ability to read for long periods would wither and die completely. So far I think it's working?

Cawendaw

Voice of our generation!

Sarah Stodola@twitter

@Cawendaw Or voice of *a* generation, at least.

teaandcakeordeath

Oh thank god for this post. This has happened to me and it's a relief knowing it's affected other people too. I've started to worry that my mental faculties have just withered and died.
See Also: Recent Inability to Spell Since Auto Correct

yrouttasight

@teaandcakeordeath The only thing I count on autocorrect for now is the i-e or e-i in "their". I never get it right (yes, I had to look it up before I typed it here).

katiemcgillicuddy

@teaandcakeordeath I turned that shit off because of that very reason and for the many times auto-correct made an embarrassing move on my behalf.

practical cat

@teaandcakeordeath But I neeeeeeed autocorrect because I'm a lousy touch screen typist. But yeah. It might be destroying my life a little bit.

juksie

@katiemcgillicuddy auto correct on my phone is the Worst, but auto correct on microsoft word/google chrome is embarrassingly important to my spelling abilities...

yeah-elle

Yep. If I want to read a book in one sitting like I used to be able to, I have to go to a cafe (or if it's nice outside, the park). My phone doesn't have internet access, so it more or less isolates me.

Also, photo inserts. In college, whenever I felt lazy in class, I'd just look through the photo inserts in my Norton Anthologies.

PS. I am stupid excited about the new Star Trek trailer. More Bones, please. Also, who do we think Cumberbatch is? My bet is Gary Mitchell but it's anyone's guess.

yrouttasight

@yeah-elle Cumberbatch is playing Kahn, of all characters!

yeah-elle

@yrouttasight Has that been confirmed for real? Ugh, I think Cumberbatch is a good actor and all, but seriously, if that's true, they chose just about the pastiest white actor possible to play him.

I thought Gary Mitchell might be likely because Alice Eve looks made up to look exactly like Elizabeth Dehner.

Blushingflwr

Alternatly, do all your reading on public transit when you do not have access to the Internet (either because you do not have a smart phone or because there is no signal in the tunnel).

I have this problem at bedtime. I try to go to sleep, and my brain wanders, and I often roll over to grab the laptop to look up something or download something before I forget.

yrouttasight

@Blushingflwr Yes! I have a 20-minute train ride to and from work 5 days a week minimum. I get so much reading done!

Megan@twitter

@Blushingflwr @yrouttasight I have an hour-long bus ride to work but I always get distracted by my phone. I accidentally left my phone at work last night and I got so much reading done on the ride home! I might do that on purpose more often.

Blushingflwr

@Megan@twitter Oh, I admit that I spend many commutes looking at social networking sites or playing games instead of reading. Sometimes it depends on how invested I am in the story, or how long I know I can let myself disappear into the book (if I'm only going two stops, it's not worth it sometimes). I often have my kindle in one hand and my phone in the other, in case it vibrates. And I also spend lots of commutes crocheting. But one of the saving graces of public transit, for me, is that I can use it to read, or crochet, or check facebook, instead of just seething in frustration at the traffic.

fabel

I am so relieved for this & the comments so far. I've been saying for so long now that internet time has seriously decreased my focus & attention span, but nobody believes me. I used to read entire books in one sitting; now I put them down to check my phone, forget about them, only read the beginning & then lose interest-- it's terribly sad.

iceberg

I have zero attention span now. I can't even read long-forms on the inernet, much less a book.

Living My Best Life Far Away from the Hairpin!

@iceberg I know, I was just thinking about how if any piece of writing on the internet is more than six sentences, I'm like, "TLDR." And I have a laughably gargantuan amount of articles bookmarked on my computer that I should really accept that I'm never going to go back and read...

MilesofMountains

I am like this at work, too. Do I NEED to know that to write my report? No but I'm going to waste time googling it anyway.

Kristen

The real question is: what would writing be like if there wasn't the internet? Did people in the olden days used to write more than one line at a time? How could they stand it? When that awful nauseating feeling of "My words are disgusting, I must flee from them" overtook them, where did they hide, if not under the comforting quilt of their Gmail?

Olden days people must have been so brave.

SarahP

@Kristen Yeah I have zero trouble reading without consulting the internet, but my writing has been seriously damaged by the fact that I can more easily distract myself from my insecurities about "whether or not this is worth writing" by reading the hairpin or news sites or just looking at cute cats and never return to writing at all.

cinnamonskin

I could barely make it through this article for the kittycat-like distraction of wikipedia, downloading the book on amazon, and then hey, amazon, subscribe and save.

And also, how do we do our hair like that?

Citizen Cunt

Semi-unrelated: I hated this book so hard. I couldn't even make it 20 pages through before I gave up. I'm from KY so I thought it would be all Historical and Interesting and Roots of KY, but it was just all Jimbo and Tater Nuts shooting each other in front of the courthouse. DO NOT RECOMMEND.

KeLynn

@Citizen Cunt HAHAHA

ironhoneybee

I can't even get through the longer comments on this page without a solitaire break.

katiemcgillicuddy

I've always had a habit of getting halfway through one book and then starting two more, but it has definitely gotten worse in the last couple years. I'll get super happy with myself for reading just long-form articles without stopping, so yeah, the ADHD has gotten way out of control. Okay then, back to gchat (which I will NEVER speak an ill word about) and online poker.

Ellie

I put my computer away, in its case, in my closet when I want to be disconnected for a while. It's great. The happiest & calmest periods of my recent life have been when I haven't had a working computer or when it's been put away.

iknowright

The internet has totally ruined me for books, too, though I do hate it when people (okay, my mom) are like, "you're always on the internet, wasting your time! Why don't you go read a book?" Uh, what do you think I'm doing on the internet? It's not 4 hours of LOLcats -- I AM reading things! Lots of things! Yay internet!

One good tactic for easing yourself back into reading a lot in one sitting is to read something YA. I actually just bought Divergent at the recommendation of a Hairpinner and read the first 350 pages last night. And it's an awesome book! And now it's making me more interested in picking up something new when I finish it (likely tonight because, for real, it's really compelling), and keep the cycle going. Read for need, not for speed!

travelmugs

@iknowright Yeah, the last thing I read in (almost) one setting was "The Miseducation of Cameron Post." Excellent book and it totally brought back warm feelings for extended bouts of pleasure reading.

meetapossum

I used to (and sometimes still do) read books on the subway during my commute, but more often I find that I'm listening to podcasts and playing solitaire on my phone.

mmmcheese

On a semi-unrelated note: BRING BACK PINPICKS!!

KeLynn

Hey I have this book! I have never finished it. I got maybe 1/3 of the way through but if I remember correctly, I put it down because I just couldn't keep all the people straight.

Springtime for Voldemort

Nicole: How do you read paragraph-paragraph-paragraph?? I can only do that for non-fiction, which usually has the decency to be laid out in a nice thesis-argument-evidence format. But fiction doesn't do that!! I would read more fiction if it didn't end up taking like 2 months of my life to get through a single book.

Miss Maszkerádi

Guys, this article is Relevant To My Current Anxieties. Just today I was worrying/panicking about my destroyed attention span and lousy time management skills, and figured it's largely due to the internet. There was one sentence in an article I was reading about babies and electronic entertainment that said something to the effect of 'Once an attention span is destroyed, it's gone forever." And I know that was about BABIES but still I was like "AAAAAGH NO!!!!"

Dear ladies and presumably gentlemen, can we all do some research on ways to get our attention spans BACK? I've had fun with the internet but I want to get my pre-Wikipedia brain back.

Also - I'm sorry but I cannot with the Star Trek Gritty Reboot. BLASPHEMY. WHAT would Gene Roddenberry think?!?

ennaenirehtac

@Countess Maritza "Once an attention span is destroyed, it's gone forever." This is the single most horrifying sentence I have ever read. IS THERE NO HOPE FOR ME?

Gilgongo

I think you might be me. Right down to the speed reading and the adorable kid. Also, I don't know if it was you who wrote about Papillion (I think it was), but the DAY there was a whole post about it (two days ago), it suddenly became available at my library (for my kindle. I've been on the waiting list for months). It was kind of freaky. I just started reading it tonight. LOVE it so far! I'm taking a break to read "Ask A Married Dude" and to grab a pint of ice cream out of the freezer. Sigh.

sognodisonno

Heh. And you know it won't happen, because who flosses regularly?

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Asad Ali

Oh thank god for this post. This has happened to me and it's a relief knowing it's affected other people too. I've started to worry that my mental faculties have just withered and died.
See Also: Recent Inability to Spell Since Auto Correct. how can i get the man i want

Muhammad Atif@facebook

I spent 12 hours overall on a plane a week or two ago and I read maybe 1/3 of my book. All those people around me talking and playing games and asking the attendant for snacks! Stop it! I'm trying to read!
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Muhammad Atif@facebook

I've been saying for so long now that internet time has seriously decreased my focus & attention span, but nobody believes me. I used to read entire books in one sitting; now I put them down to check my phone, forget about them.
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Hworks

I think Cumberbatch is a good actor and all, but seriously, if that's true, they chose just about the pastiest white actor possible to play him facebook password stealer

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bilo rani

Like the guy who played the creepy meth addict uncle in "Winter's Bone" and the creepy cult leader guy in "Martha Marcy May Marlene" was supposed to be a comic relief character and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why he gave me the chills. Or almost laughing out loud when Adam from "Girls" was playing a legitimate telegraph morse code tapper.
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bilo rani

Like the guy who played the creepy meth addict uncle in "Winter's Bone" and the creepy cult leader guy in "Martha Marcy May Marlene" was supposed to be a comic relief character and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why he gave me the chills.
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Shwan

I turn on "Scholar and Gentlewoman" mode, and all is well, or if it's, like, the new Zadie Smith or something, but I've almost entirely broken my ability to pleasure-read a single book in a sitting without screwing it up.garcinia cambogia extract

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premiersh

It is just very important that I find out what terrible show that one guy used to be on, and even more important that I exert as little energy as possible to do it.
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