Monday, May 26, 2014

On Reading All the Way to the End

        This morning, I sat down with the rest of the Sunday papers; I subscribe to both the Charlotte Observer (daily) and to the Sunday New York Times.  On Sunday morning, with my coffee, I start sorting through.  My first priorities are the "Living" and the local section of the Observer and the NYT Book Review.  I browse first, then start the crossword puzzle. For the record, the Sunday puzzle is the only one I work faithfully.  It requires a certain twist of thought, not simply recognition and recall.  I work on it all the way to and from church, and keep returning throughout the afternoon.  Anyone who works this puzzle knows that the subconscious keeps working on the baffling clues until--ding, ding, ding!--the light goes on and the letters fall into place.  I do not cheat. I do not google.

     I first skim the Time' book section, always reading "By the Book," an interview (actually more of a Q and A, since I suspect the subjects are given the questions to answer at their leisure) and looking through the other articles and essays.  I read the various bestseller lists--fiction, nonfiction, hardcover, trade and mass market paperbacks, and more.  I usually put a checkmark or X by the ones I've read, an H by the ones I have but haven't read yet, and W by the ones I want to read. Later I'll mine the rest of the section to add to my want-to-read list and to cut out articles I want to file at home or school

     During the school year, it may take all week to get through all the other sections of the paper, but I usually turn every page (except ads and sports sections).  In the summer, I have Mondays.  Ahhh! Summer--the reason we teach.

     Today, I began an article on the front of the "Sunday Review" section, "Faking Cultural Literacy" by Karl Taro Greenfeld, which touched a lot of my buttons. The. author points out that with access to the internet, many people feel free to comment on books, movies, and cultural events not based on actual experience or knowledge but from what they glean in social media.  He refers to the NPR April Fools' Day prank, posting a web story called "Why Doesn't America Read Anymore?" which went viral. It was posted and reposted, often by people who never actually clicked on the link to find only the "revelation that the whole thing was a prank."

    I discussed this with my younger son this weekend.  He knows I think an unwieldy print newspaper is the only kind that counts; he reads online.  My theory (firmly held belief) is that people who read online miss the serendipitous articles and other content they would discover while paging through the actual paper.  At one point he told me that his generation was exposed to so much knowledge that it sometimes nudges them to middle ground politically and otherwise.  I suggested that the more accurate word was "information," which is not exactly the same as knowledge.  I think that's part of Greenfeld's point.

     Furthermore, I have caught myself reading headlines, skimming the first paragraph or so, and then moving on--even when an article interests me.  Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows dealt with the way he believes technology re-programs our brains to be distracted, not to be able to concentrate fully, to move forward to the end.  More and more, I am pushing myself to break that bad habit.  For the record, I read every word of Greenfeld's article--and many more.  This weekend, I also took the time to read an entire article about a doctor at Duke who, after visiting Haiti, has been challenged to develop a device to help doctors there and in other developing countries to diagnose and cure cervical cancer.  Certainly, with the "inverted pyramid" structure of most journalistic pieces--the 5 W's and the H in the first paragraph and  stopping points along the way--I could have gleaned enough to chat socially on the topic, but I would have missed a lot. In fact, I'm sure the author didn't write the piece with no expectation of full readership.

     I notice this past week that several people responded on Facebook to a notice of one of my posts here.  I could tell who had and who hadn't read the blog post by their responses.  (You know who you are--or in this case, aren't).

I'd say more, but there's a good chance that many readers abandoned this post several paragraphs ago. I may never know.


Linda H. said...

I didn't Abandon it. I read this post until the very end. In fact, I don't think there is a post of yours I haven't read to the end, especially the book reviews, although I admit I don't always take the time to comment on them. It's become too easy to just hit the "like" button on your Facebook prompt. Yes, I know...shame on me!

Linda H. said...

oh, and I always work on the Sunday crossword as well (but from our regional paper since getting the Times here is a bit expensive)

Forever Young said...

I read all the way to the end, too, dear Cuz! I always read all the way through in your posts. My problem is not finding time often enough to read. Maybe things will slow down around here this summer so that I can get over this way more often. That's my plan! Love reading whatever you write . . .