I’ll tell you what’s not ideal: selling your family history no financial gain that represents the plight of most authors of fiction and non-fiction. Not only are they earning incomes that make the minimum wage seem like an unattainable dream, a recent Macquarie University study reports, but they are facing the sudden evaporation of what they once, in attacks of grandiosity, called their “audience.”
It seems that the human ability to concentrate is itself in danger. Reading has been at risk of sudden death before — television squared our eyes when I was a kid — but now, with our phones and the pandemic and Trump and Wordle squeezing our brains into the consistency of couscous, we have the science of neuroplasticity to amplify our fears.
The brain itself is remodeled! In his book Stolen Focus: Why you can’t pay attention, Johann Hari disseminated widespread research on how the stop-start, multitasking and concentration-busting influence of digital devices and modern work is changing the brain itself; or as Nicholas Carr put it 10 years ago – the last time we were really worried about our brains – Google makes us stupid.
Last year, the new federal government responded to a persuasive call from writers and readers to promote literature. But as the wise, Miles Franklin-winning author Amanda Lohrey pointed out, more good writing means little if nobody can read. Imagine the future of music if an epidemic of deafness swept over listeners. The urgent challenge, Lohrey argues, is to restore reading, starting in schools and working out in communities. A strong national culture is a strong reading culture.
Caught up in the recent apocalypse, I’m mostly worried about myself. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve come to an abyss reading books, if a permanent fact of life can vanish in a matter of weeks like in the Soviet Union. The dystopian novel is hot right now (as long as it’s easy to read). What if the end didn’t come from a virus or an asteroid, but simply because millions and millions decided from one day to the next that they didn’t want to read anymore. What if Harry’s book was bought by 10 million people, nine million of whom read a chapter before deciding never to read another book again? Could Harry’s book be the one to set a new record for killing readers (who aren’t real people, mind you, just chess pieces on a board)?
As a writer, of course, this is the end of the world, but as a reader, the reckoning is more painful. I guess I read about 80 books a year and have been for at least 45 years, so let’s say that’s about 3000 books or about 30,000 hours. According to the 10,000 hour rule, in the time I devoted to reading books, I could have become a genius in three different disciplines. I could have become a heart surgeon, but also a professional golfer and concert pianist in my spare time. Instead, I gave this life to poring over ancient manuscripts like a medieval monk. No wonder when real estate agents advise you on how to prepare your home for sale, the first thing they say is to get rid of all those books, they put people off. (Except for Harry’s book, which is allowed to continue his life alongside the moor.)
If reading just died out, the sadness wouldn’t be for me, it would be for everyone else and the joys they missed out on. Forget a wasted life; What about the many lives you’ve missed?
Whatever happens to our brain, it remains hungrier than ever to imagine its way into another life, to travel to a world beyond its own. Imagination fuels all the time we spend with these infernal devices that end up annihilating the imagination that sent us there. Believing we can do things more efficiently, we turn to Instagram to satisfy the urge to live in someone else’s world, and we can rattle through thousands of alternate existences in the time it takes to flip through a book. However, I like to think that the infinite breadth of a billion alternate lives might not make up for one Anna Karenina. call me old fashioned call me dead
Apparently, what readers really need if they’re going to keep reading is a positive, upbeat ending. So here’s one. Johann Haris success with Stolen Focus indicated that he was answering a question that many were asking. Why can’t we be careful? His book has sold more than 50,000 copies in Australia and hundreds of thousands worldwide. When people wanted to know why they couldn’t concentrate on reading, they looked to a book for the answers.
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https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/why-harry-s-memoir-might-finally-close-the-book-on-literacy-20230112-p5cc65.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_culture Why Harry’s memoir Spare could finally close the book of literacy