Sunday, January 16, 2011

Killing time

photo from
As an introduction to this post about Iambik, the indepdent audiobook publisher (Castle for five bucks, allow me to remind you), Kyle Minor at HTMLGiant shares an amusing story about his days as a traveling salesman of "eighth-rate university educations":
Even when I’m driving, I prefer reading a book to listening to a book. I once drove eight hours, from Pensacola to Lake Wales, Florida, while reading Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. This horrified everyone who cared about me. This was before the days of education about texting and driving.
It's amazing to consider just how much of one's life is utterly wasted in the execution of necessary, time-consuming, and mentally empty tasks.  Driving is the obvious one, of course.  But then there's waiting in line at the post office or the bank, waiting for a children's birthday party to end, waiting for a child's music lesson to finish.  In college I lived on the twentieth floor of a high rise with an interminably slow elevator. It took me months to realize I should always, always have a paperback in my pocket.

Of course the problem is there aren't many paperbacks that can be digested in a manner appropriate to the amounts of time you have to waste.  There are only so many times you can read, say, Thomas Bernhard's The Voice Imitator, or, for that matter, my plundering of it.  This is one of the major reasons I am in love with my phone--I've got all my favorite blogs, literary and otherwise, subscribed to an RSS feed that I view using Reeder; and if I'm in mid-novel on the Kindle, I can pick up where I left off on my phone, then return in the same place when I'm back home on the sofa.

One oft-mentioned side effect of this age of technological fetishism is that we are constantly distracted by our devices.  It's true, we are.  But we can also make use of time we used to have to kill by, in my case, obsessing over worthless shit.  Today, thank heavens, it is more possible than ever to stuff worthwhile reading into every empty crevice in our lives.


Michael Garberich said...

My own habits are plain and simple: Never leave without a book if I think I'll have at least 5 minutes with nothing to do. Going to pick up a pizza down the street? Bring a book. A haircut on the agenda? The book is my companion. I usually take whatever novel I happen to be going through at the time, be it a paperback or hardcover. Or I'll bring along a familiar collection of essays, like Coetzee's Inner Works (a nice, thin paperback) or DFW's A Supposedly Fun Thing... (not as thin) and refresh myself with their knowledge. Like all habits it takes time to form and the inconveniences are most pronounced early on. But there's no going back unless literature somehow forsakes me, which I really hope it doesn't, but it might.

Also, sometime ago I made a joke about a foldable iPad Soft Pocket (to no one). And then I'm watching the news (here in Seoul) and see the latest generation of OLED's from Samsung and LG. The foldable iPad doesn't seem so far away anymore.

This video is from ... China? Anyway, you get the idea. Bendable screens. Rollable Screens. Unbreakable screens:

Here's one that involves a hammer:

You can find a lot of examples if you go to and search "OLED Screen" and then choose the 6th tab down on the left (동영상).

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I've seen those displays...quite amazing.

My only problem bringing a novel around with me is that I generally don't like to read one in little bursts--I greatly prefer a big block of time I can sink my concentration into, even if it's just a thriller or something. Maybe David Markson would be good--I wonder if there have ever been mass market paperbacks of his stuff.

Pale Ramón said...

When I was younger and had long waits between buses, I could read novels, even the thick Russian variety, without problems. (I might add that this was around the time the Walkman was introduced and there was less noise coming from other passengers.) Now, I bring along a volume of poetry to help pass the time between commitments. Otherwise, I might feel like a chicken running around with its head cut off!