The lost art of reading (or drowning in too much information)…

Here’s a great review of a fascinating book (H/T reader Rory) on how the Internet is destroying our capacity for intelligent, focused and critical thought. It opens thus:

…here is the news that Ulin brings in this slim, meandering book: that reading is “an act of contemplation”; that such an act becomes more difficult in “our overnetworked society, where every buzz and rumor is instantly blogged and tweeted, and it is not contemplation we desire but an odd sort of distraction”; that the analphabetic anger of anonymous Internet comment threads is emblematic of a “degraded cultural conversation” in which “the ability to carry out a logical argument” has been lost; that technology brings a boon but also a burden: “We are never disconnected, never out of touch”; and lastly, coming full circle, that in this “landscape of distraction,” reading becomes not just an act of contemplation but one of “resistance.”

Recognise the condition? Well the reviewer for the NYT Christopher Beha does. In fact he’s deeply sympathetic. But, and this is something anyone who has spent some time in and around the poetry publishing arena for at least a generation, here’s his irreverent kicker:

The publishing industry, like every industry, needs product to push, notwithstanding the fact that a truly necessary book is a rare thing. Here is a challenging and confounding truth you won’t find anywhere in Ulin’s pages: There are too many books, and this is part of the problem. David Ulin’s intentions are beyond reproach, but his book is another distraction.

The irony is that these interactive tools are aimed at getting us past the information overload and closer to what we imagine is the pay dirt…

The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time.

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