Saturday, April 19, 2014

Longing for the Bookish Past

Rain and wind drive up our street today. It's a bookish day. I snuggle into the couch blankets with The Plot Against Pepys, a cup of tea, and  Pomeranian.

A few paragraphs in, my mind fails to engage fully; my mind wanders. I'm not paying attention to the text. I used to read for hours when I was younger. How did I do it?

I don't read enough. My laptop distracts me, derails my activities and intentions, and occupies hours each day. It's bad. I know it's bad because hours on my laptop leave me feeling deflated, anxious, and weary.

But an hour spent sinking my thoughts into a good book leaves me feeling satisfied and calm inside. I miss that.

I don't read e-books. That's not my personal online poison. I just fiddle, flitting among Facebook, Pinterest, Google mail, the weather forecast, and my feed reader. Like a butterfly unable to settle, I go from empty flower to empty flower, hoping for a hit. After exhausting all my sources, at last I snap my computer shut. My brain is tired, bored, vacant. It hasn't been fed by the online experience; it's been sapped.

I remember thirty years ago, before personal computers of any kind, before cell phones, before my parents owned a microwave (ha!). I miss those days and don't apologize for it. Life was a slower pace, but more importantly our minds walked a slower pace and were given the luxury of time to absorb and process information. No flitting. No multi-tasking (or, multi-failing, as I've heard it called).

When I picked up The Plot Against Pepys this morning, I found it hard reading at first. The book is well-written, engaging, beautifully paced. The fault is not in the book but in my brain. I've trained it to sit lightly on the flowers I give it, to nibble a crumb from each spoonful and move on to the next. My brain is weak, unable to consume and digest meaningful volumes of text.

I'm changing that. I can't blame age, nor a busy home, nor little children, nor work. I blame myself for my habits. I won't give up my blogging or my connection with friends online, but I will control my feeding habits there. The satisfying bookishness of the past is a pleasure I will afford myself once again.


  1. It takes discipline and time to re-learn actual book reading, doesn't it? I think it's partly an English teacher thing! I had go quickly through books I'd never read in order to teach them. It's a different way to read. I know how to read for pleasure again, but it took awhile to savor every word. Now I even set up a reading schedule for myself --- tv off, computer shut down, Ipad closed. It works, and I love it.

  2. I totally agree, MK! I moved my laptop upstairs where there is a more uncomfortable chair. I want to return to my deep reading and deep thinking.

  3. Splendid post, MK. Lord have mercy.

  4. Ah...we have had a few rainy days last week and they were wonderful. I find myself falling asleep though, rainy or not, when I read in the afternoons with my Mutt. :) Good thoughts, MK. The internet and personal devices are changing the way people do things, communicate, and interact with the world and I suspect it is changing the very way our brains function, too. I got a kindle for Christmas and I have to tell you....I love it. Sure makes middle of the night reading easier. I never thought I would think that and feel somewhat traitorish. However, I love SEEING a book laying around. I forget about them inside that kindle (unless I'm on a deadline like with book club books). I haven't totally gone over to the dark side.

  5. I experience the exact same thing, MK.
    I flit around on the computer, though, because it puts me in contact with people, and I so rarely see people in my real life. But it does work against attention span and it does not refresh.
    I read a book, a YA novel actually, a couple of weeks ago. I did find it engaging and I didn't want to put it down, and I came away remembering what it was like to have that relationship with a story, rather than a string of broken, partial interactions through the computer all day long. It really is a valuable experience I have missed in the last few years too. I want to read more. Let's keep encouraging each other to do so, in those times when we DO allow ourselves to be on these machines!

  6. Do you know what? ! I SO agree with you. I still read loads but I get SO distracted by online stuff! Mostly blogger!x

  7. Oh and a very happy Easter to you and Adam! Christ is risen, Hallelujah!x

  8. AMEN AND WILD APPLAUSE!! You've described to a tee just what I feel like every day when I finally shut my computer. Where did the time go?!? You do feel empty and like you've wasted hours. I've never heard it put so well. As a single person, I do love the connection with others through my blog and with my kids through Facebook, but I do need to learn to control all of the rabbit trail chasing that consume way too much time. I've got lots of lovely books waiting to be read and I agree that they are much more satisfying than hopping from website to website. Best wishes on controlling your feeding habits. I will try to do likewise! You two dears take care. I trust Adam is minding his nurse? (That would be you!) :)


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