Wolf, an expert on the science of reading, was worried—as perhaps you have
worried—that she might be losing the knack for sustained, deep reading.
She still buys books. "But more and more I read in them
rather than being whisked away by them," she wrote.
Wolf told herself that it wasn't the style of her reading
that had changed, only the amount of time she could set aside for it.
So, she decided to set up an experiment
She decided to set a time every day to reread a novel she
had loved as a young woman. It was Hermann Hesse's Magister Ludi. (Hesse
received a Nobel Price in Literature in 1945.) It was precisely the sort of
demanding text she once loved.
The experiment went yuck!
She hated the book. She hated the whole so-called
experiment. She had to force herself to wrangle the novel's "unnecessarily
difficult words and sentences whose snakelike constructions obfuscated, rather
than illuminated, meaning for me."
The book's narrative was intolerably slow. She said she
had "changed in ways I would never have predicted. I now read on the
surface and very quickly; in fact, I read too fast to comprehend deeper levels,
which forced me constantly to go back and reread the same sentence over and
over with increasing frustration."
She had lost the "cognitive patience" that once
sustained her in reading such books as Magister Ludi.
She blamed the internet.
Remember how English teachers admonished us to
"develop our paragraphs?" Now, most all paragraphs need to be about
two sentences long. In fact, large blocks of text soon lose their reader.
And now I read that the GPT-3 equipment they are
installing in cell phone prompts will give our phones the quality everyone
pretends to but does not actually want in a lover — the ability to finish your thoughts.
Have you ever written a message where the damn messenger
writer decides what your next word ought to be? For crying out loud, now it
wants to write for us.
The GPT-3, instead of predicting the next word in a
sentence, as our messaging appts do, would produce several paragraphs in
whatever style it intuited from your prompt.
If you prompted it Once upon a time, it would produce a fairy tale. If you typed
two lines in iambic pentameter, it would write a sonnet. If you wrote something
vaguely literary like We gathered
to see the ship and all its splendor, like pilgrims at an altar, it would continue in this vein:
If you wrote a news headline, it would write an article
on that topic, complete with fake facts, fake statistics, and fake quotes by
fake sources, good enough that human readers could rarely guess that it was
authored by a machine.
OMG, is this true?
But then I come upon this quote by Geralyn Broder Murray.
He greatly anticipated the arrival of a new bookstore in her neighborhood: Good
"And, for all the traumas bookstores have
faced, they don't appear to be going anywhere, which to me means there is hope
for everything and everyone."
Remember when bookstores started having coffee shops in
I was in heaven.
I miss bookstores. Oh, we still have Barnes and Noble in
town, for which I am grateful. However, when I read Geralyn Murray's thrill at
having an independent bookstore move into her neighborhood, I was taken back to
how I felt walking into a bookstore—all that adventure, all that knowledge, all
ability to spin yarns. We used to have a wonderful Metaphysical bookstore in
town that had a sign, "You want a book about what?"
"So, writes Murry, "the next time I feel the
world crashing down around me," I know exactly where to seek refuge:
through the doors of my very own neighborhood bookstore, where the beauty and
promise we all have within us is waiting to be picked up, purchased, and
brought home in the form of a book — reminding me that all is not lost. Far
Broder Murray Sep 22, 2021.
We used to frequent Libraries when we were kids. (And
remember Ray Bradbury said he educated himself by reading from one side of the
library to the other. And then, look what a writer he became. And he reveled in
it. "You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy
you." ― Ray Bradbury)
But think of a bookstore and how thrilled you were with
your new purchase. You couldn't wait to get into it. You would carry your book
home, and it would be yours. And you wouldn't have to pay any Library late fees.
And then when the coffee shops arrived, well imagine, you
could choose a book from the shelf, sit at a table and gently peruse the
book—careful to keep it pristine, no coffee drips or anything.
In the days of bookstores, I would plunk down twenty-five
bucks on a book and think nothing of it. Now I'm used to the $2.99 prices of
Kindle, and even with my own book, The
Frog's Song, I feel it's
overpriced, but it is what the publisher demands. (Hey, they have to make
money; otherwise, they will not stay in business. Which was the reason
I read on my Kindle. I order books online, but there is
nothing like the thrill of walking into a bookstore where the air zings with
the excitement. It's a feeling not present in a library.
Oh, I take that back—some libraries. I went into the
Oregon State Library in Corvallis, Oregon, once to research the horse's brain
and was overcome with their beautiful building--windows along one side, floor
to ceiling, lots of light, a small food court, and a restroom. I could live
After reading Ms. Murray, I thought of the first book
read to me by my mother, Anne
of Green Gables. And in the
second grade, there was a special reading time where we put our heads on our
desks, and the Sister-nun read Heidi. That was the best time of being in the second
grade. In the middle of the year, I had entered a Catholic School, a new kid,
and was thrust into academia--was embarrassed when asked to read aloud and
stammered over my words. And you had to stand beside your desk. Horrors.
what I remember from the first grade and half of the second was that we played,
and I was a darling because I could draw. In Catholic School, I made a special
friend, a non-Catholic who was there because her mother, a doctor, thought it
was the best school.
The point I'm getting to is this, those first books we
read as children are etched into our soul. Perhaps they help form who we are.
How I loved The Black Stallion series. I have read many books since, but none
are as special as those first reads.
See ya. I'm going to have a glass of wine and pick up my
current novel. (I just completed: Where
the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah. I
loved it. A little girl, found by a field biologist, says she is from the
"You don't have to burn books to
destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." --Ray
Do you have any comments, feedback, gripes, or
suggestions on improving my service? (Yeah, Joyce, open a Bookstore—in my