Delayed reading and the pace of modern life

I can’t recall exactly how I became aware of Jessa Crispin’s work. Artists usually enter my consciousness through social media, interviews or recommendations from Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings blog. Jessa Crispin’s “The Dead Ladies Project” found its way to my wishlist three days after coming out. I must’ve started following her on Twitter at that point too. Even if I was aware of the book all the way back then, I’m only reading it now.

After finishing Molly Crabapple’s memoir in which her self-discipline and her quest for meaning shook me to actually write every day. The dull sadness of finishing a good book was starting to take hold. I knew I had to start “The Dead Ladies Project” right away. I pondered getting a physical copy but then the momentum would have been lost as I waited for the book to show up. So I am reading it on my tablet.

I wish I had started sooner. It always takes me that kind of time to come to a book, no matter how important it seems that I read it. My unread book pile gets shuffled and reshuffled as if the books want to be read in a certain order. This makes it very hard to connect with the conversation as it happens. The zeitgeist remains ever elusive. But then, I do not know that it makes a difference.

France has what they call the “rentrée littéraire”. Books come out all at once in September. There are more every year. It has therefore become impossible to read any significant portion of them. Not that I have tried. Of course, it’s the same online. Everyday seems to be a “rentrée littéraire”. Good long form magazine pieces come at you all the time through social media. It’s hard to discern what is important from what should be avoided.

We all have our own circles on social media and, therefore, we get different recommendations. It is freeing everyone to pursue their own interest but at the same time it is lonely. It is hard to find common ground with friends. I get a little ping of satisfaction when what I read during a particular week matches links in Ann Friedman’s newsletter (which I recommend) because I know a couple of my friends at least will have come across the pieces too.

There still are cultural moments, even if they concern fewer people at once, but they’re so fleeting as to be impossible to catch. Online life has a devilish pace. Even if you and your friends read something, will you have time to discuss it? A magazine piece, a book, a film is big on Twitter for a few hours and then, it drifts onto a pile: wishlists, read-later lists… to resurface again much later maybe or not at all.