I did not go and pick up my prescription, so now I must find my crampons before I go outside.
10642 words on current project
ventusky.com is a beautiful site that visualizes weather data in real time across the globe. Hours of fun.
pOp is still in hospital as far as I know but should be home shortly.
There is beautiful shiny white snow all over everything and the world is quieter. It wasn’t even that cold in the house yesterday because the wind dropped away to nothing.
L.M. Sacasas said in his newsletter this morning that long form reading seems to be getting forgotten as a readerly activity… all we’re doing is dipping in to things. I’m quoting a large piece of it because I think it’s an important thought.
Reading is not one thing
This is another point that (Maryanne) Wolf stresses throughout her interview. It seems pedantic to mention it, but, again, we are dealing with realities so deeply woven into our daily practices that we cease to think about them at all. Their obviousness paradoxically draws a veil over them. Even though images and video have proliferated exponentially in just the last two decades, we are still swimming in a sea of written words. Many of us spend hours each day reading various kinds of text: emails, text messages, posts on social media, product descriptions on retail websites, reviews, articles, recipes, essays, books, reports, etc. The list can go on and on. But these various texts invite or require different forms of reading. We might glance, we might skim, we might do little more than search for keywords, we might read deliberately, or we might find ourselves immersed in what Wolf calls deep reading. We can imagine these modes of reading existing on a spectrum of effort and care with many other points in between.
It would be a mistake to say that deep reading is the only kind of reading we should ever do.¹ In fact, it would be absurd to think that. The problem, in my case, is that I am constantly engaged in modes of reading on only one side of that spectrum, which then habituate me to be resistant to forms of reading on the other end. As I began reading the novel I’m now close to finishing, it was difficult for me to get lost in the story. When I do read something that is intellectually demanding, I find my mind wandering from the page after only a few moments. I assume that by now this is just how most people feel about reading and that some may not even know that there is any other way. (Of course, I could just be consoling myself by projecting my own vices onto others.)
And it is not just that there are various kinds of texts, some more demanding and others less. It is also that the physical form of the text matters. The history of reading or the history of the book is instructive on this point. One of my favorite books about reading is Ivan Illich’s In the Vineyard of the Text, which is unfortunately rather hard to find. In it, Illich focuses on a very specific moment in the 12th century when a set of textual innovations changed the nature of the book and, thus, how we read. Consequently, Illich argued these developments changed the whole intellectual culture of the Western Europe. What were these innovations? They were seemingly trivial things like chapter headings, indices, and page layouts conducive to silent reading.² Much of this had to do with facilitating random access to the text. The end result, in Illich’s view, was the sundering of the text from its material instantiation. In How We Became Posthuman, Katherine Hayles sets out to tell the story of “how information lost its body.” For his part, Illich would say that this happened decisively in the 12th century when it became possible to conceive of something called the text separately from its instantiation in the material form of a book. “The page,” Illich observed, “lost the quality of soil in which words are rooted.”