6 thoughts on “The great unread

  1. Your article on aliteracy gave me a severe case of don’t-know-whether-to laugh-or-cry, especially the idea that not reading specific authors one claims not to like (which I take it is an activity indistinguishable from not hunting whales or not being an astronaut) can provide a positive experience of some kind. I have taken refuge from that idea (it feels like) in a work firmly ensconced in my personal canon, Catch-22, specifically the chapter that recounts why Colonel Cathcart (I think) spends so much time shooting skeet. It’s because he hates shooting skeet more than anything else he has ever done, and when you’re hating what you’re doing, the time seems to pass so much more slowly, and when you’re as afraid of dying as he is, you will do anything to make the time pass more slowly. There is a weird isomorphology (as Mr. Hofstadter would say) between this idea and that of deriving pleasure from refraining from reading particular authors. When Heller wrote his piece, it was supposed to be funny. The not-reading thing–well, laugh or cry, or don’t laugh and don’t cry.


    • Thanks Donald! I remember that bit from Catch-22. I think it’s Dunbar who is trying to extend his life by doing things he finds boring, like shooting skeet. Amazing that I still remember that after . . . thirty years? It’s been a while. It’s such a great book!

      I’m told that excerpt is getting a lot of traffic. I think a lot of people recognize the phenomenon it describes. It is both funny and sad. I think we should laugh though, because it will help us live longer.


  2. Excellent, if daunting, article. I have just posted it on Facebook and ordered the book, which I will read! It is important not to despair, but sometimes difficult not to. You are right, though – it is better to laugh when we can.


  3. Hi Alex, I also bought your book right after reading the excerpt. I am loving it, even though David Adams Richards and Douglas Coupland are two of my favourite authors! I’ll probably write something about it on my blog, and I’d love to ask you a few questions. Not yet, because I’m still reading. But soon 🙂


    • Thanks Laura! I think everyone should definitely read *some* Douglas Coupland and David Adams Richards, but I guess I feel like a little of each goes a long way. It’s a book full of opinions!


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