“Length adds complexity, enhances enjoyment, and at the same time promotes persuasion.”—Jane Smiley from “13 Ways of Looking at the Novel”
Can you remember the last book you read cover to cover? Of course I can! What a ridiculous question. Except In our hectic lives, a lot of us lack the time or patience to finish a book. Well whose fault is that? Why not make the time and work on the patience? And after a long day at work we end up spending [wasting] time on less attention-intensive entertainment [substitute mind candy here], like binge-watching Netflix shows. True, but no one can control that addiction but the person whose appetite is out-of-control.
Do you have any idea where these patronizing, dangerous suggestions come from? Blinkist; a company started in Germany by some very young men. The sentences printed above in italics are directly from their website. You can look them up yourself. They tell you that their new company taps into these sentiments by providing 15-minute summaries of nonfiction books. Lest you think this pretty ridiculous and not worth considering, let me draw your attention to the fact that Blinkist has raised $35 million to date. If this isn’t enough to send chills up your spine, they go on to promise you Insights in 15 minutes . . . get the key ideas from bestselling nonfiction distilled by experts. Experts . . . at what? Propaganda, one has to assume, and they finish by inviting you to contribute more to their $35 Million success by joining their self-proclaimed reading revolution [to] connect with an engaged community of over 11 million readers. The first time I heard about this company and its drive to kill fiction I was revolted, especially understanding the inclination today for fast everything and diminishing attention spans. But the more I’ve looked at it the worse my nausea becomes, because it’s just exactly what we don’t need to heal our brain drains. We need to read.
I do a little more reading in the summer because I have a different schedule and more free time; thank heaven! If I’m not writing, I want to be reading as much as possible, but like many, I get further and further away from that goal some of the year when I’m busier. But how dangerous is the belief that the mind’s eye required for fiction is a waste of time. The successful German startup is proof that speed and a lack of imagination are being touted as the best routes to literacy today.
Please, don’t add to the $35 Million debacle robbing people of their time to think because it seems to be a popular mantra today. We need to take our time. It is OUR time after all, unless we give it away. Our brains need to slow down and let lots of competing thoughts in. We need to relax and open up. There’s no doubt that in order to be physically and emotionally healthy, we need to read. It’s an interesting phenomenon. When we go mind-traveling and ride our imaginations like a magic carpet, we’re both open to possibilities we might never experience otherwise, but also focused inward, very privately. What else can we do that is both expansive yet definitive at the same time? If we want to be all we can be, we need to take time out . . . to READ.