What’s up with that? The hip, facile answer would be to blame New Media. These days the Web is full of people talking — with a strange sort of pride — about how things like Twitter and Hulu and Facebook and YouTube are pushing Old Media, like TV and movies and books, off to the side of the road. The thrust of this CNET piece, for example, is that the guy spends a lot more time these days Tweeting about things than actually experiencing them. You can see how far this has gone by pondering the headline: “How the Web changed my content consumption.”
Did I refer to “TV and movies and books” in that last paragraph? What I meant was “content.” You don’t read a book or watch a show anymore, you consume content. And you’d better be quick about it, or you’ll end up consuming something that’s as stale as an SNL episode on a Monday afternoon. Good luck Tweeting about that — kiss of death, baby. It’s hard enough live-blogging every episode of 30 Rock without also having to pick up a freaking book.
That would be the easy explanation: too much content out there for one man to consume. But for me, it’s not really true. I’ve largely abandoned Twitter, quit looking every 15 minutes to see if somebody responded to whatever useless remark I’d formulated regarding something I’d seen on TV. I gave up Facebook, I’m indifferent to YouTube, I don’t care to watch fragments of TV shows or amusing commercials on tiny screens. I’ve got all the time in the world to read books, but I haven’t been reading them. For some reason, every book jacket I look at makes the book itself seem like way too much trouble.
I don’t what’s behind this sharp decline in my reading. Maybe it’s a result of trying to write for a living myself. Maybe on some level I can’t bear to read successful authors who are either worse or better than I am — the first group creates bitter resentment, the second despair. Who needs it? Or maybe — and this is the most likely scenario — I’ve just gotten lazy and preoccupied with other things. A book isn’t like a Flight of the Conchords video; it takes a certain amount of commitment to see even a good one through to the end.
In any case, I’m not quite ready to to make the leap the CNET guy did, and give up reading books altogether. Old Media or not, I’d better get back to it. Time for a determined trip to the library, with a stop at Border’s. Recommendations, anyone? I lean to crime fiction, but all suggestions will be considered.