Commentaries - July 2008

"Are we stupider?" is a stupid question

There's been much talk about Nicholas Carr's Atlantic essay bemoaning the demise, in the internet age, of deep reading (“Is Google Making Us Stupid?,” Atlantic, July/August 2008, pp. 5663). Carr's answer is that Google is indeed making us stupid and, to be perfectly frank, I think the question is itself rather stupid. First off, "us"? Second: "stupid"? Reading habits are changing, just as they always have been changing; it's just that they are changing more rapidly than usual. I'd guess that the emergent ubiquity of the daily newspaper in the eighteenth century probably changed urbanite reading habits as quickly as they've changed in the 19962008 period in which the web has become a major source of words to be read. And I'm not sure anyone will ever be able to speak very specifically about wide reading as distinct from deep reading as a positive or negative value. The traditional notion is that deep reading is of greater value than wide. But I've never felt that way. Moreover, when we're moving fast we are wide readers pretending (e.g. in class, at cocktail parties, at the office on a Monday morning) to be deep readers.

Cuban gays and Wallace

Eric Keenaghan published a very good essay on the Cuban “Origenes” group whose leading figure was Jose Lezama Lima.