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.