Monday, March 7, 2011

Attention Span: We'll Cross That Bridge When We Come to It

At some point in the undifferentiated future, your attention span is going to catch up with you, wrestle you to the floor, then get you to sign some agreement equivalent of the Magna Carta.  You will then be obligated, bound by the significant ties contractual agreements have held for you for your entire working life, when your own income was related in no small way to the agreements you forged as an editor with writers and, in appropriate enough balance, to the agreements you forged with various literary agents and publishers with whom you had dealings as a writer.

How easy for you to shift into the mode of railing against such villains as MTV, shorter TV scenes to accommodate more commercials, even that splendid invention of your great pal, Digby Wolfe, the neighborhood integrator (as in there goes the neighborhood) of his, "Laugh-In."  Your screed against such noble and ignoble changers of pace grown more intense with each new example as it occurs to you.  Twitter, for example; say "it" (whatever 'it is) in one hundred forty characters--or else.  Texting.  Emoticons.  Email.

Easier still to pick fast-paced events from among slower ones, then present them as evidence of a growing trend which, thus emboldened by the distortions of your logic, you view with increasing alarm.  O, tempore, you could hear yourself saying.  O, mores.  (More likely, oh, tempura, oh, morays.) You believe you feel more comfortable, for a certainty more relaxed, when entwined in long-term attentiveness than the tug, the near-masculine attribute of the pull of a short-term infatuation.  It is not that you have anything against shorter work; you after all admire the short story (in particular those of Louise Erdrich and Deborah Eisenberg) and all but fawn over the intricate construction and powerful inner reach of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, but of late you have come to enjoy as well the sense of richness and belonging-ness to such work as Hilary Mantell's Wolf Hall.  Even now, you are slathering to get at and into the book that arrived on your doorstep earlier this afternoon, George Elliott's Daniel Deronda, which, if memory of your last venture with it holds true, will keep you with a smugness throughout the coming weeks.

Your ultimate point being that having a short attention span is a serious distraction, bringing you to the point of a duelist slapping the cheek of the adversary.  The adversary is, of course, time, but you are quick to note that it has always been time; that is the delight of being alive and tempted by books and by ideas and by the idea that you could think to construct books and ideas of your own while trying to maintain a semblance of sociability.  When you were living amongst a cadre of blue-tick hounds, you identified with their nose, which with such dispatch alerted them to the spectrum of scents out there,waiting for them.  You are blue-tick in spirit so far as ideas and stories are concerned, and thus the wonder that you ever get anything beyond a half-done state.  Oh, to have single-mindedness of focus, for just a moment--to see what it might have been like.

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