Stop Watching the News and Read a Book

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Yesterday’s post was an attempt to cope with the seemingly steady stream of horrific news of late. Then I read Karl Ove Knausgård’s Vanishing Point, which helped me to better understand how the media makes things more distant even as it makes the world smaller:

Perhaps the foremost characteristic of our age, what sets it apart from all others before it, is that the sheer volume of images of the world—not just the world of the past, but also, and perhaps especially, that of the present, the world of which we are a part—is so massive. Any event, anywhere on the planet—an earthquake, a plane crash, an act of terrorism—will be available for us to view only moments later, in on-the-scene images we see and consider as we go about our day-to-day lives, stuck in our tailbacks of traffic, as we make our coffee, visit the bathroom, wash our clothes, prepare our meals, set our tables. Usually, we keep these different levels of reality apart, or at least I do. Even the worst disasters are something I merely register, with varying degrees of horror, as if the world outside were a film, a play, a performance, of concern to me only in the most superficial manner. At the same time, and more profoundly, such images provide a release insofar as they allow me the freedom of never having to be entirely present in my actual surroundings, in the routine state of boredom they constantly threaten to dull me with, since one’s attention is continuously being directed toward something else, to what is happening right now: the occurrence, the event, the news item.

The article—actually from a speech in acceptance of the Welt Literaturpreis—makes an interesting case for reading novels as a way to move beyond the media’s distancing universality to something much more personal, particular, and singular.

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