So I recently got an interesting email from my friend and editor Rod Dreher — you do read Big Questions Online, don’t you? — who tells a thought-provoking story about the combined effects on a reader, namely him, of (a) an iPad and a (b) sabbatical from blogging. With his permission I share it with you:
So, I burrowed in last night to read an hour of [Jonathan Franzen’s] “Freedom,” and ended up staying on the couch for two hours, until I finished the book … er, novel; I was reading it on my iPad, so it wasn’t really a book. This morning, I tried to recall the last time I had finished a novel, or finished any book (I’ve always got several going at any given moment). I couldn’t. Partly this is because Franzen’s novel is such a good read, but I think mostly it’s because I was in the habit of stopping whatever I was doing to blog about a compelling insight, or even simply to blog a moving passage of whatever I was reading. It occurred to me this morning that this way of reading worked hard against allowing a narrative to sink its hook into me. I was never able to give myself over completely to the narrative, fictional or non-fictional, because I was always standing outside of it, ready to talk about it online — and I would stop reading cold to go do that. It made for good blogging, I think, but a book never was able to cast its spell. Being away from blogging for three weeks may — may — have given me back my ability to experience a book as it ought to be experienced. It was kind of, I dunno, exhilarating.