“Reading a book requires, by today’s dismal standards, an enormous investment of time and attention,” writes Austin Kleon, “and the writer either honors that investment or suffers the consequences.”
I couldn’t disagree more.
Reading a book requires exactly as much time and attention as it always has. And if you’re too busy to read—hint: you’re not, because nobody is—that’s your problem, not the writer’s.
Look, if you don’t want to read, fine. Like kimchi or Throbbing Gristle or a college education, it’s not for everyone. But that’s on you. Just admit you’re a narcissist and quit projecting on the rest of us.
Even more mystifying is the notion that reading is somehow an investment. This is the language of the self-improvement fetishists; those who read not because it’s enjoyable but because it’ll make them more efficient or more productive or more likely to win an argument.
And therein lies the problem. Reading used to be viewed as an end in itself; now it’s more likely to be seen as a means to an end—a transactional relationship between author and content consumer. Just as we’ve done with our phones and our playlists and our social media feeds, we somehow think that our reading experiences ought to likewise be customized and “curated.” Which means if we don’t like ’em, we just look for alternatives that conform to our expectations and flatter our sense of self-worth.
What a boring way to live.