Goal for the new year: deeper, “vertical” reading

This great article from The Paris Review about reading in the age of constant distraction has me committing even more strongly to the idea of abandoning the skimming, attention-lite, “horizontal” reading of online bits in favor of immersion into a longer and deeper focus. Mairead Small Staid takes a look at how well Sven Birkerts’s The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age holds up 25 years after it was published, and no surprise he sounds like a soothsayer: “Ten, fifteen years from now the world will be nothing like what we remember, nothing much like what we experience now,” Birkerts wrote in 1994. “We will be swimming in impulses and data—the microchip will make us offers that will be very hard to refuse.”

Staid writes: When a work compels immersion, if often also has the power to haunt from a distance,” Birkerts says, and how I wish this haunting were the sole province of great work. It isn’t: ghosts seep through the words on the screen, ghosts of screeds and inanities, of hate and idiocy, of so much—so much!—bad writing.”

And the final word from Birkerts: “The beauty of the vertical engagement is that it does not have to argue for itself. It is self-contained, a fulfillment.”

As someone inordinately proud of her own reclaimed Borders’ bookshelf, I also loved this great detail: The shelves of the original Borders had been bought and repurposed by Literati’s owners to hold the new store’s fiction section.