Paradise Lost is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is. — Samuel Johnson
Paradise Lost is 79,810 words of blank verse. I’ve read it, of course, because any man who wants to even pretend to what’s considered a “classical education” should read it. I’ve read Atlas Shrugged (645,000 words), War and Peace (588,000 words), haven’t finished Ulysses (265,000), have read Moby Dick four times (209,117). Most novels are fifty to a hundred thousand words.
Yesterday’s “lunchtime hate machine” post got a fair amount of attention from various forums, some car-related and some not. About 20% of the responses in the forums, by my quick eyeball estimation, were some variation on “tl;dr”. My initial response to this is: “Try learning to read without moving your lips, you fucking moron. It was well under 2,000 words and should have taken you between five and ten minutes, tops. The fact that you can and do have sex twice in that kind of time doesn’t mean it’s a long time.”
My second response is sorrow. We’re becoming a society of top-ten lists and bullet points and summary paragraphs and other things that are not and never will be substitutes for reading something in full and with attention. I don’t really care if people don’t read what I write all the way through — I’m not Lena Dunham, I’m not the voice of my generation, and I get paid the same (nothing) if you read the first word or the whole thing — but I worry that a lot of people are awfully ignorant (in the actual sense of the word) because they can’t be bothered to read more than 140 characters.
If you’re part of the tl;dr crowd and you’ve somehow made it into this, the third group of one hundred words in this blog post, listen to me for an excruciating moment: The course of the world is set by people who are willing to read and comprehend difficult, lengthy concepts. Those people then take those concepts and engineer them into manipulative phrases (“NO BLOOD FOR OIL!” “DRILL HERE, DRILL NOW, PAY LESS!”) to be placed in front of people like you. They regard you as proles and rightfully so, even if you own a Mercedes and a MerCruiser and a McMansion and a Rolex Submariner LV.
It’s a state of affairs you can change, but it will require as much effort as CrossFit and you won’t have anybody to yell at you while you’re doing it and you won’t be any more fuckable at the end of the rainbow. Probably less. But it’s worth the effort. Read a book. A nonfiction book. About some idea or concept. All the way through. You can do it.
Just remind yourself: it could be worse. You could be reading Paradise Lost.