on the believer


Recently I read, or partially read, thereby proving the point of this book, The Shallows by Nicholas Carr (British subtitle: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember). Carr tells the story of a friend who can’t read blog posts that exceed three paragraphs before he starts skimming. So there’s our new boundary, I guess – not page real estate, but people’s evolved (and shortened) attention spans. It suggests an interesting new way to approach structure; and, ironically, it tosses us back into the conundrum of the newspaper review squib, the limits of which initiated the creation of the Believer in the first place. No matter how well (or not well) something might be written, the new challenge is this: how much time a reader will read any text before his or her brain flips to another text. If, as Carr argues, our brains have reconfigured themselves to comply with this attention-hopping model, shouldn’t we want, in part, to appeal to those brains? In which case how can we justify continuing to produce a print magazine?

more from Heidi Julavits at The New Statesman here.