The Guardian’s Steven Poole turns a critical eye to an alarmist piece that claimed the internet was damaging our ability to digest challenging literature. (An unusual claim given the number of litbloggers online, but I digress…)
As it happens, I value deep reading – and so, perhaps, do you. And so, quite obviously, do all the youngish people I see everyday on London transport reading 700-page printed books such as the Game of Thrones series, 50 Shades of Grey or the new Donna Tartt. Stuart Jeffries has written persuasively about the popularity of such doorstops, as well as complex modern TV series. This might be a culture not of attention deficit but of “a wealth of attention focused more readily on the things that warrant it”.
Of course the internet can be distracting – you’re reading this, after all. It’s true that skimming is tempting, that being overwhelmed with information is in some quarters worn perversely as a badge of pride; and that the request to express the “take-away” (or, as some say, the “tl;dr”) of a lengthy piece of writing bespeaks a philistine data-age instrumentalism, according to which the only possible function of writing is to transmit bite-sized facts.