Nick Carr on reading disorders

The latest in the ongoing saga:

Rough Type: Nicholas Carr’s Blog: Gains and losses

I’ve just powered through 14-odd latest posts on Rough Type (I got a bit behind) and am quite surprised by the identification of what Nick Carr would consider a growing trend – people used to the hypertext, short-burst narrative form of information on the internet are reporting they can’t read longer narrative works.  They find themselves edgy, unable to concentrate after a few pages.

Is this something that is quite common? Or is it perhaps something that a small subset of people are experiencing, a subset who also happen to be fans of Nick Carr’s blog? (Of which I myself have been in two minds about for some time).

I know i’ve personally never noticed this as a problem.  There are periods when I don’t read, but they are due mainly to a lack of time rather than a lack of ability.  This past weekend I read two fiction books and a novella.  Admittedly the two books were short compared to what I usually read (3-4 hundred pages) and weren’t huge idea novels that made me think a great deal, just entertainment.  I paid for that with the Novella however which was Animal Farm, by George Orwell – a thought provoking novel for anyone who has considered moral philosophy in conjunction with governance, or just governments and history in general.

The point is, I read these books over the course of hours, curled in a chair (or at a table), utterly engrossed without feeling the need to rush to check my email, my rss feeds, the daily webcomics or any of a thousand other things I do whilst at a computer terminal during the day. 

In fact, as I become more and more engrossed in the information culture, I find it easier and easier to unplug. Now more than ever there is something incredibly satisfying about a static novel, whether it be on the screen of my pda, or one of the hundreds of hard and paperbacks that I am slowly filling my house with, much to my wife’s continued irritation.

To me, this “reading attention deficit disorder” reeks of throwing blame for poor attention and self-control at our culture once again.  Another example of the blame culture that is infesting our globe. 

If you can’t read it’s because you’ve let yourself lose the ability, not because someone or thing stole it.  Get some willpower and take it back.  Take some responsibility for your own life and condition for a change.


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