What interests me here is not so much the dwindling of attention spans, as what I call ‘nuggeting’ – scanning only for the important points, the catching points where the eye and the brain latch on to information – a point of change or transition or a contrast. Nugget to nugget, getting the eye-kicks in at the required bpm. I wonder if that’s what the commentariat mean when they say ‘the storyline did not engage me’ –the nuggets, the changes, the beats didn’t come fast enough. I think it’s a sad and bad thing. If we’re exposed to only what stimulates, it deadens the response. Reading isn’t only about finding out what happens next. Why hurry to the end? Take your time. There’s plenty to enjoy on the way.
I half-agree with McDonald here – certain books demand to be read more slowly, either because they are richer in ‘nuggets’ or because the prose itself is satisfying to linger over (or because they’re not written very well, though I tend to give up on bad books these days, as life’s too short already).
But equally there are books that demand to be read quickly, and are all the more fun for that. And most of all, I think there are big risks in making general statements about how and why people should read for pleasure; McDonald naturally has a creator’s concern about his work being appreciated as he intended it, but I know I’d be a resentful of being told how I should best enjoy a book by anything other than the book itself. [via SF Signal; image by takomabibelot]
What about you – is it fast-moving page-turners that you’re after, or do you prefer books that you can lose yourself in for a week or two?