Back To Zero, Again And Again

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019-08-30 17:00:00 No comments

The thrill of breaking the 120-minute barrier | Roger Ebert's Journal | Roger Ebert

I am aware that in books as in movies, the modern taste is for brevity. At some point early in the next century, I suppose, novels will intersect with the sound bites on the TV news and the bright little self-contained paragraphs in newspapers and magazines. All imagination will be boiled down into smug little info-nuggets. Why is it nobody seems to realize how lots of short little things are exhausting? You have to keep setting your mind back to zero. But the long, deep stuff--the long books, the long movies, and even the TV miniseries--are refreshing, because they give you the time to understand other lives and even, for a time, seem to share them.

Emphasis mine. Written in 1992.

Ebert actually liked Twitter for the way it required you to be concise and witty. But I don't think he would have advocated displacing long-form marination in a topic with short-form peppercorning.

The highlighted part, I think, is the key. Each tweet is its own self-contained universe, and it requires effort to reset yourself to accept it. Effort that we aren't always conscious of. A book tends to be all of a piece; once you open it and start its ride, you tend to know how the ride's going to feel.

This isn't a diss on tweeting per se, or blogging, vs. books. It's just a recognition that it's easy to fall out of the habits of certain kinds of consumption, or never get into them to begin with, and never know what you're missing as a result.

Earlier this week I dove back into reading the complete works of Primo Levi, which I received as a birthday gift. Three slipcased volumes. It's the kind of thing that demands deep commitments of time. Once I started making the commitments, and quit thinking about what else I'd be missing by doing so, it was easier than I realized to sink in as deeply as I needed.

Tags: reading