Have we forgotten how to read?

fresheditededited‘ie’ produces ee, that ‘gh’ is all but silent, the verb noun relation, all this we get, like putting feet to pedals, it’s instinctive once learned, but there was always more to reading than that. It demanded something more of us – the internal balance between words and eyes and mind. It required submission and exertion. Have we forgotten how to maintain that balance?

I read little now for pleasure. Reading is my work; the unpaid kind. Reading is what I do with tired eyes after I have poured blood and soul onto the screen. I wonder if this is what students feel like, the ones that actually work; I wouldn’t know, I was a terrible student. It becomes more understandable why when you do have time to yourself you might chose a video game, bar or cinema over more written words. I do the same now too. But then I am reading stories, you’re memorising the life cycle of mice. And book sales are rising.

The balance for me has always been between reader and writer. For now, the writer is dominant, the reader subsumed by his critical eye. That’s okay. I love to write, but it feels a little like everyone loves to write, or shout, or tweet or pin. So are there any readers still out there?

Every word put out is meant to be read. And I love that it might touch you in some way, stir you, make you smile, make you stop and look at something familiar in a way you never have before. Isn’t every artist seeking a connection with their audience? Isn’t every human? And feedback can give us a tangible means of realising this. Self-published authors often comment on the public’s helpful (I may have added this..)  input on grammatical errors, even story and character ‘errors’, usually offered up through review sites. Stranger to stranger, producer to consumer. If I still remember your homophone in the third chapter, if I stopped mid read to make a neat little note, my pen and pad ready by my side…was I really reading?

I hear a great deal of talk within the writing community (which may currently be the world, minus my parents) of the role of social media. There’s twitter, telling people to read books; instagram, pictures of people reading books; google plus, people selling books; pinterest, pictures to help people selling books..   Maybe I am too tightly wrapped in my writers bubble, writing sites are dominated by eyes stuck on critical zoom. But there is wattpad, that’s actual books, free for the reader, the 21st century version. I have been there, I left quickly. Is that reading?

Agents do the book fair circuit, seminars and conferences with free lunch, offering their expert opinions. Pitch them in ten minutes, or better yet, hand them your book and they’ll tell you where they stopped reading. One stopped at the first line once – why? Because he didn’t like panama hats. That’s not a valid reason, it’s really not. Panama hats are cool.. REJECTED

The average is apparently 600 words, but that’s only if you got the letter right. If they don’t get the genre and word count on the first line – don’t waste their time with introductions – they’re unlikely to read further.

We’re buried under words, the writing is on the wall, and the screen, our phone, we text rather than call, pm rather than look up over the ipad and speak, but we’re not reading.

Serials are making waves once again. Long the preserve of times gone by, a cheap way of disseminating books to the poor classes, now they are being resurrected as a quick way of disseminating books to the time poor classes. Except I’m not sure we’re time poor, I think we’re attention poor. There’s too much, all demanding our eyes, we can only give our attention for a few seconds before something else is tugging on our interest. And worse, everyone knows what really matters isn’t what you read, it’s what you tell everyone you read. It’s what you are trending, and how high up the list you are; we’re reading just long enough to form an opinion. Truly we are the IMHO generation. Those serials – they’re up for sale. The characters, the twists, the ending. The writer is listening to the reader; they’re reading the reader. As one such site, Unbound, tag themselves, Books are now in your hands.

Maybe it’s my bubble, but its a very crowded bubble. And a very noisy one. All those voices.. Everyone wants to be heard; many amazon reviews can stand as works of literature in their own right (after all blogs have made the transition), and its usually the one-stars that truly revel in vitriolic flair..

But I do still believe past the hype and the trends and the salesmen, people still love to read. I do. I just wish we paulwould remember that the power of books lies in our surrender.  And since I am speaking from within a bubble I guess the people I am addressing are writers, agents, publishers.  Readers might love panama hats..

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