阅读与作文(英语初中版) 2021年3期

Two years ago, I had a very straightforward reading pattern. Every few days, Id read a book. I would immerse myself in its characters and storylines, swim in its style, snatch up every opportunity throughout the day to return to its enveloping world. Then I would finish it, and start another one.

Things were so simple then.

I wish I could blame it on the Christmas eReader, but my evolution into schizophrenic multimedia literature butterfly started long before it landed in my lap–via iPod and Audible, Twitter and Gutenberg, and brick-like new-writing magazines that take weeks to digest. My reading has taken on a strangely driven, guilty quality, as I try to justify the cost of all those subscriptions and all that hardware by consuming fiction in an unprecedentedly multiplicitous and simultaneous way.Secretly, I long to return to a world in which I had a loving, stable relationship with one paperback at a time.

A day in my life as a literary butterfly starts at 7:30a. m., with a few select paragraphs from the short story in last weekends Sunday papers over a morning cup of tea. By 8:30a. m., Im fully plugged into my latest audiobook as I stride to the station. On the tube, its the rush to plough through the story and poems in the latest, expensively imported edition of the New Yorker, before next weeks lands on my mat. Throughout the day, I might catch up on a Twitter novel every few minutes, or check out the latest freemium offering from an enterprising new author. Back on the tube, I crack out the eReader, scroll past the 100 free books I havent even dipped into, and try to settle into the download I just had to buy to see if it worked. Finally, at bedtime, I open my book—my real, smelly, prefix-free book—and fall asleep, waking six hours later with ink on my face.

A recent study by Stanford Universitys Department of Psychology has (in the time-honoured fashion of research) told us something we know all too well: we children of the long tail economy pay the price of unlimited choice with the misery of the always-something-better-out-there syndrome. “Even in contexts where choice can foster freedom, empowerment, and independence”, says the studys author, Professor Hazel Markus, “it is not an unalloyed good. Choice can also produce a numbing uncertainty, depression, and selfishness.”

As psychologist Barry Schwarz puts it in his brilliant TED Talk on the Paradox of Choice, “theres no question that some choice is better than none, but theres some magical amount. I dont know what it is. Im pretty confident that we have long since passed the point where options improve our welfare.” And its true: I love the fact that I can download some great new authors self-published PDF onto my screen, that I can carry the electronic Riverside Chaucer wherever I go, that I can access almost any obscure old tome from Amazon marketplace and get the cream of the fictional crop delivered quarterly to my door. But its a long time since I experienced the intense pleasure of leisurely browsing; the careful selection and devoted reading of a single text. For me, reading has become a fractured competitive sport.

There is joy in this cornucopia of ways to consume quality literature, but there is also anxiety and loss—I feel like an alcoholic pushed into a permanently stocked bar, and I cant even taste the merlot because Im trying to down a tequila and sip a martini at the same time. Im dying to return to the mono-media of paper and glue. But Im just not sure that Im strong enough to resist the lure of that Dickens in my pocket; the new Jim Crace short story nestling in that mega-zine.









The Magna Carta
Winner Takes All