ATG Article of the Week: I have forgotten how to read

by | Dec 21, 2018 | 0 comments

“For a long time Michael Harris convinced himself that a childhood spent immersed in old-fashioned books would insulate him from our new media climate – that he could keep on reading in the old way because his mind was formed in pre-internet days. He was wrong.

 

“Turning, one evening, from my phone to a book, I set myself the task of reading a single chapter in one sitting. Simple. But I couldn’t. There was nothing wrong with my eyes. No stroke or disease clouded my way. Yet – if I’m being honest – the failure was also not a surprise.

 

Paragraphs swirled; sentences snapped like twigs; and sentiments bled out. The usual, these days. I drag my vision across the page and process little. Half an hour later, I throw down the book and watch some Netflix.

 

Out for dinner with another writer, I said, “I think I’ve forgotten how to read.”

 

“Yes!” he replied, pointing his knife. “Everybody has.”

 

“No, really,” I said. “I mean I actually can’t do it any more.”

 

He nodded: “Nobody can read like they used to. But nobody wants to talk about it.”

 

For good reason. It’s embarrassing. Especially for someone like me. I’m supposed to be an author – words are kind of my job. Without reading, I’m not sure who I am. So, it’s been unnerving to realize: I have forgotten how to read – really read – and I’ve been refusing to talk about it out of pride.

 

Books were once my refuge. To be in bed with a Highsmith novel was a salve. To read was to disappear, become enrobed in something beyond my own jittery ego. To read was to shutter myself and, in so doing, discover a larger experience. I do think old, book-oriented styles of reading opened the world to me – by closing it. And new, screen-oriented styles of reading seem to have the opposite effect: They close the world to me, by opening it…”

 

To read the entire article click here or on link above.

 

*Mr. Harris is the author of Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World and The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in an Age of Constant Connection.

(Thanks to Leah Hinds for suggesting this article of the week!)

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