Jun 28, 2010

Maybe It's Me


Just read another article with yet more gushing about people "sharing" things that I'm not so sure I want to share.

This time it's books and how people will soon be sharing their favorite passages and notes and cutting and pasting the good parts and all that.

Not so fast.

If I'm reading a good book, particularly fiction, part of what makes it good is that I'm inside the world of that novel. It's what the late John Gardner (with whom I had the honor of studying in college) called "a vivid and continuous dream."

So why would I want to pull out of the vivid and continuous dream I get while reading an incredible novel by stopping to check which paragraphs John Szalewski from Toledo, Ohio (Handle: JohnnySzal345)  thought was awesome? Particularly if I don't know John. (Or even if I did.)

No matter what the medium is: video, audio, print, or digital, a story well told is not something anyone wants interrupted. . You may want to discuss it afterward, but if it's that good, you won't have time or inclination during.

Now there are many instances when we do want to interact and share. When we're watching the Super Bowl, for instance, or the Oscars: two events with numerous pauses and opportunities for discussion. Ditto reference books or certain types of non-fiction. What all those events have in common is a disjointed narrative, where a certain number of interruptions and pauses are expected and considered to be part of the experience.

Confusing the two is wrong and incorrectly assumes that we experience all types of stories the same way. But Gardner's vivid and continuous dream lives on, despite the world of interruptions at our fingertips, precisely because a really well-told story is just that good.

It doesn't mean we won't share it: literary criticism predates the internet, as do highlighters and notes scribbled in the margins of library books. But there's a big difference between "during" and "after."

(Stepping down from the soapbox.)

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