The Pleasures of Laborious Reading

I’m hoping to begin posting a bit more frequently soon. First up will be a follow-up to my last post about smart-homes. Until then, here’s a piece by Freddie deBoer well worth your time: “in order to read, start reading.”

DeBoer laments how difficult it has become for many of us to read works that demand sustained attention. This, of course, was the concern that animated Nick Carr’s well-known 2008 essay, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

To counteract this trend, deBoer recommends that we take up what he calls a “project book.” As he lays it out, this strikes me as good advice. Along the way, deBoer also makes a series of characteristically trenchant observations about the Internet and what we might call Internet culture. For instance:

“The internet has an immune system, a tendency to produce pushback and resistance to arguments not just about the drawbacks and downsides of endless internet connectivity, but to the very notion of moderation in our use. There is something about the habitual aspects of the internet, the “more, now, again” aspects, that couple with the vague sense of embarrassment we feel about constant internet use to produce a default posture of insecurity and defensiveness about these behaviors.”

Do read the whole thing. What deBoer challenges is, in my view, one of the great temptations of our age: the willingness to abandon or outsource all sorts of labor–intellectual, moral, emotional–the fruits and pleasures of which can be had no other way.

4 thoughts on “The Pleasures of Laborious Reading

  1. Just read the article and enjoyed the interesting content as it does indeed echo an important modern concern. Despite the Internet I remain an avid reader. Perhaps because I kept my old cell phone until it died before getting fairly recently a smart phone, perhaps because I grew up without TV and canceled my cable subscription months ago, perhaps because I read in English and French (my native language is French) I am not too concerned about the risk of not being able to focus on harder reading material. Yet I am more concerned for my children and their friends, smart kids but definitely born after the Internet. They still read and write school and college papers, but often only for a specific class and almost never for the pleasure to plow their way through a tough and yet rewarding book. Your post and the several links will resonate with many adults with children and teenagers. Thank you so much.

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