This isn’t going to be a long post because I’m going to the library this morning. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is to me — academia made me positively loathe reading.
This is yet another myth about academia, that you get to sit around reading great works at your leisure. Nope. You sit, overly caffeinated, desperately slogging through tedious articles, grinding away at “important” scholarly books, grading student writing, and (at the very last minute) maybe skimming the readings for the class you’re about to teach. All stuff you have to read. Even the stuff you study, which you should be able to read at your leisure, is crammed hastily in.
The worst part was that before grad school, I loved to read. The realization that I now hated reading — not just the books, but the the mere thought of reading– was a major hint that I needed to get outta dodge.
In my last year of professoring, I started reading young adult fiction as a form of rehabilitation. I randomly picked up Cherry Cheva’s She’s So Money, since she’s a Family Guy writer and I thought it was weird that a Family Guy writer had written a YA book. To my delight, I found that YA had gotten all snarky and funny in the last twenty years. And these books had absolutely nothing to do with history, gender, or universities — all topics that made me flinch because they were work-related.
In some ways, my reading hiatus wasn’t such a bad thing. I didn’t watch all that much TV growing up, so grad school was what made me a Friends geek and a Buffy fan.
But the human brain adapts to convenience; even I, a once-devout reader, find myself fighting a shorter attention span and the impatience that comes from instant gratification. At least I had some formative years without web browsing, though. Some studies suggest that today’s students, who have browsed nearly their whole lives, really can’t concentrate for any length of time. I’d like to think it’s possible to have the best of both worlds — the focus that comes from reading novels and the free association that comes from web surfing. We shall see.