Patricia Lockwood travels through the internet in “The Communal Mind,” first read aloud at an LRB lecture at the British Museum. I’m not sure how to describe this piece, and you may really love it or really hate it. But it’s really something.
SHOOT IT IN MY VEINS, we said, whenever the headline was too perfect, the juxtaposition too good to be true. SHOOT IT IN MY VEINS, we said, when the Flat Earth Society announced it had members all over the globe.
While the ideas in it aren’t really new, I still enjoyed Mairead Small Staid’s essay in the Paris Review on reading in the digital age of distractions.
On the “heightened state brought on by a book”:
This state is threatened by the ever-sprawling internet—can the book’s promise of deeper presence entice us away from the instant gratification of likes and shares?
On the horizontal reading (surface skimming) of the internet, which is the opposite of diving into a book:
What I do when I look at Twitter is less akin to reading a book than to the encounter I have with a recipe’s instructions or the fine print of a receipt: I’m taking in information, not enlightenment. It’s a way to pass the time, not to live in it.
We know perfectly well—we remember, even if dimly, the inward state that satisfies more than our itching, clicking fingers—and we know it isn’t here. Here, on the internet, is a nowhere space, a shallow time. It is a flat and impenetrable surface. But with a book, we dive in; we are sucked in; we are immersed, body and soul.
I read the internet.
I’m supposed to care.
Or feel inspired.
But I don’t.
It could be apathy.
It could be that I’m in the wrong place.
* * *
I’ve been doing a better job shutting off lately.
The move into this little house has helped.
Before, the screen was something more.
A portal? Nourishment?
Things are changing.
The screen is just a screen.