Wednesday, March 13, 2013

You Either See It, Or You Don’t

A disturbing realization has insinuated itself into my awareness and taken unwelcome lodging:

Due to new media practices, book readers (as a group) have been corrupted into a profound habit of laziness and expectation of coddling. A sense of adventure in the reader (assuming it existed) is being diminished, eroded… replaced with a sense of entitlement or ownership (of the reading material and the writer). The new generation of readers today demonstrate a sad lack of willingness to actively participate in a contemplative and exploratory reading of books, to devote the patience, time and effort necessary for a proper reading of books, to accept and appreciate the book for its own merits.
Readers have become rushed and reckless, distracted and dilettante.
Many of them have reduced art to nothing more than a disposable digital file.

In the introduction of my newest book, Days Remaining, I wrote—
To paraphrase writer Stina Leicht… The truth is--- an author only creates half of the book; the reader creates the other half through their own perspectives, assumptions, attitudes and experiences.

Stina sagely advises, and I agree:
Writing is about being brave, taking risks, accepting and embracing our essential humanness; it is not about being comfortable or safe or a way to stay invisible. Accept that. Embrace the naked.
Do the work. Ignore the rest.

But the same is true for the reader. Embrace the naked. Do the work.
Ignore the rest.

Now, young readers are conditioned to think the book is not enough from the author, conditioned to demand the author supplement the book with extraneous materials, that authors innately owe readers a variety of free stuff in addition to-- and even including-- the book! From the author, they demand blogging and social networking, their free time, personal attention. Unreasonable and unwarranted demands.
Apparently, inexplicably, the fact that the author has provided a book that the readers like is not enough for them anymore. A book that already took much investment of the author’s time and hard work.

To me, this feels like a kind of passive aggressive ungratitude and unappreciation. As an author, I resent and reject this presumptuous and preposterous imposition. I don’t say this to offend, or be controversial; I’m just saying: Dude. I’m glad you like the book, but back off. Please. Enjoy the book for what it is. Don’t bother us authors with ridiculous demands.

Further, and worse, these readers have proven unwilling to seek out new and hidden written narratives on their own, or take risks on independently and self-published books. That accept only what they are shown through advertising and promotions, thinking that’s all there is to read. Or worse-- that’s all there is worth reading. That only things presented by Big Publishing are valid.
Shenanigans, I say!
This isn’t only true of books, but also movies and music. There is a whole world of possibilities outside the sphere of Hollywood or Radio or Publishing Houses.

In the Forward of another of my books, a posteriori, I wrote—
Nietzsche boldly asserted that readers of his books must deserve them. I think the same attitude should be true in every relationship between art and its audience. Meaning that readers are required to invest themselves, be willing to put in the effort to understand his words, be able to respect the artistry of words as he does. Especially in our digital media saturated society, the book is a necessary instrument: it requires and fosters a capacity for sustained and deep concentration, facilitating a “slowing down” to properly consider and dwell in the written words.

The opening of my book Long Story Short included this segment, that states my attitude regarding my own books and their ideal or “right” readers—
Nietzsche said in Ecce Homo, “If I conjure up the image of a perfect reader, it always turns into a monster of courage and curiosity, and what’s more-- something supple, cunning, cautious, a born adventurer and discoverer.”

But, unfortunately, modern book readers are becoming unaccustomed to doing the work… of exploring a book, of dissecting and reassembling and interpreting its various meanings, deciphering its methodologies. They lack a bold courage and curiosity necessary for books like mine, that reward such deliberate and deliberating engagement.

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