Every day, I tweet and blog links to stores and stories, to other blogs and online articles. The internet makes us into fast and furious consumers and creators. Of course, while we can bemoan shortening attention spans and growing distractions, it's really in our own hands how much to take in and, more importantly, how to take it in.
I abandon things I'm reading all the time. I often pick up the salient point quickly enough and don't feel the need to see it hammered out. But I'm also guilty of abandoning things because I can't concentrate at that moment. I think I'll come back when I have more time, but it often doesn't pan out that way. This saddens me, not just because of an idea of something missed, but because it makes me feel unbearably light… as if my hand is grazing over all these wonderful things but they move too fast for me to grab hold, to take possession.
And, of course, I too contribute to that kind of overwhelmed attention span by sharing the new, the new-to-me, the new-by-me every day. I too am part of that fast-moving flow of information. So today, instead, I'm going to share some repeat favourites; those pieces that I really did manage to grab hold of and that I hold close still. These are articles I think about constantly, that I've nearly memorized and that I reach for often.
(1) Ted Hughes letter to his son
"It’s something people don’t discuss, because it’s something most people are aware of only as a general crisis of sense of inadequacy, or helpless dependence, or pointless loneliness, or a sense of not having a strong enough ego to meet and master inner storms that come from an unexpected angle. But not many people realise that it is, in fact, the suffering of the child inside them. Everybody tries to protect this vulnerable two three four five six seven eight year old inside, and to acquire skills and aptitudes for dealing with the situations that threaten to overwhelm it. So everybody develops a whole armour of secondary self, the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world, and the crush of circumstances."
(2) The Skin of Anxiety by Kevin Barry
"The connection hissed more loudly and sputtered hard, and we held our breaths as the great network that we knew was out there tried to snag its digital hooks on the virgin nodes of Cork city, but it failed, and the room went silent, and we turned off the computer and got on with our lives."
(3) What Can't be Published by Stacy May Fowles
"Writing is risk, yet for me, personal protection is always superseded by the purpose of the craft; it is an act of figuring out a feeling, a way of lending structure to an experience that feels impossibly fraught, a process of giving value to suffering. It is a lone strategy for untangling the webs of chaos, of making pain purposeful, of moving people to comfort and driving them to change."
(4) What Is Real Is Imagined by Colm Tóibín
"The world that fiction comes from is fragile. It melts into insignificance against the universe of what is clear and visible and known. It persists because it is based on the power of cadence and rhythm in language and these are mysterious and hard to defeat and keep in their place. The difference between fact and fiction is like the difference between land and water."
(5) Éireann's post about Zadie Smith's NW
"What is NW about? The inconsequentiality of most things and the immense consequence of things we overlook most of the time. It’s about London. Is that easier? No, I think they are the same thing. Immensity, minority, value. It is about being lost. About being no longer young.The sad and hollow space of her characters’ thirties. The echoes of each bad decision. About the points in one’s life at which one feels, very sadly, that there can be no more great change (rightly or wrongly). About being stuck where you are despite the myths of movement."
(6) This piece from the Irish Times* by Michael Harding
"I'm always waiting, for one thing or another. In fact during December I do little else but wait for the darkening climax of the solstice and the light of Christmas. And as I waited I tweeted again: three tweets, like doodles scattered into cyberspace – horse, mouse, moon. A child born. Or not born. That's how I tweet: just small things or single words. Like bread on the deep water, I cast them out for fun, or in quiet hopefulness."
* It's an archive link so this will take you to a premium access page where you have to pay for a day pass.