Online Reading

Mike Pesca is hosting a new podcast called The Gist at Slate. One segment from a recent episode is about why we fail at online reading with guest Maria Konnikova who wrote an article for The New Yorker titled “Being a Better Online Reader.” I read it on my iPhone (I do a surprising amount of reading on that teeny tiny device), sitting at the table, conscious of what Konnikova said on Pesca’s podcast, that we tend to skim when reading on a device. I read. And then I glanced over at my laptop to update my iPod.

Very much illustrating one of Konnikova’s points that we are better at online reading if we manage to ignore distractions such as hyperlinks, sidebars and pop-ups. She also discusses how taxing it can be to switch from one website format to another: new font, new colors, new photos. Read Konnikova’s article, but the last idea that stays with me is how much easier it is to find information we read in a book because we remember that paragraph was near the top of a left page or in the middle of the book. Finding information we read online – unless bookmarked or highlighted – is much more difficult. Even so, I think we can read and glean as much online as in print if we are able to singularly focus on the reading.

Let me know what you think of Konnikova’s article, or tell me about your own print/online reading experience.


Here And Now I Am…

Saw this short article on the NY Times site and wanted to share. “Writing in the Here and Now” by Perry Garfinkel. An excerpt below:

There may be no literary genre that, at its best, evokes sense of place more than travel writing. The whole point is to make the reader feel there, not here, to transport proverbial armchair travelers from their dull, quiet living rooms to a cacophony of scarlet macaws clearing their throats deep in a tropical rain forest in Costa Rica.

This is why I open every travel writing workshop I’ve led over three decades with a pop quiz:

At the top of a page, write the words ‘Here and now I am’ followed by an ellipsis. In the next five minutes write as many sentences as you can, each sentence beginning with ‘Here and now I am.’ The rules: no questions, no stopping, no thinking, no worries about logic or syntax and no cheating off your neighbor.

If you go blank, draw from your senses — what you see, smell, taste, hear, feel.

Frenzied writing ensues. After five minutes, I instruct the participants to stop, then to reread their scribbles to themselves, painful as it may be, looking for patterns. A few brave ones read them aloud.

Read the whole piece here.

Because Excerpt

A friend forwarded this National Geographic article, “Far From Home” by Cynthia Gorney because it contains a Because passage. I appreciated the Because excerpt and enjoyed the piece as a whole: the subject is relevant to where I live; Kuwait hosts guest workers whose experiences parallel those shown in the article.

As for the Because passage, each sentence answers the question why a person leaves home to earn money abroad.

In a city of foreign workers these are the stories that predominate: the reasons you’re here, the people you left behind. Frequently they turn out to be one and the same. My daughters, my husband, my parents, and my brother, who is still in the village and who I am now afraid is using drugs. Because I wanted that brother to go to high school. Because although we are eight men in a room meant for four and must soak our filthy work clothes in soapy buckets to remove the smell, the employer pays for my lodgings, leaving me more to send back. Because even though my employer does not pay for my lodgings, I can lower my rent by sharing not only a room but also a bunk, day-shift men and night-shift men taking turns lying down to sleep. Because my wife was pregnant and we were afraid for our baby’s future, and now, by the way, I keep my wife’s picture inside my suitcase, not on the bunkside wall, where the other men in my room might look at her while having private thoughts.

Each sentence tells a story.

I first saw the Because WP exercise in Room to Write by Bonni Goldberg. I’ve adapted the prompt in two ways. First: Start every sentence with Because. Fill a page or two, listing. Or, second: Answer a question (as the above excerpt does) using only sentences that start with Because.