Learning From Pulp Writers: Readinary 2023-04
Do we have too many distractions today?
Reading vs. Outrage Binging
If you’re anything like me, you love to read books. Whatever format you prefer, be it print, e-books, or audiobooks—you read books. According to a Pew Research report from January 2022, “75% of adults say they have read a book in the past 12 months in any format.” A number that has stayed steady since 2011. Print remains most popular at 65%, but more adults are reading e-books (30%).
I’m encouraged by such reports. As a human, a writer, and a librarian, I think it’s great that people continue to read books. It gives me hope for the future. I see value in the ability to pay attention to a book. Today we have access to so much more content than we did when I was young. Movies, shows, sports (if that’s your thing), individually-created content, games—so many potential distractions available a click away. We’re not limited to studying the TV Guide in the newspaper to see the few offerings available at specific times. We have access to more content than we could have imagined. We say things now that would have been incomprehensible, “I downloaded Star Wars to watch on my phone for the trip.”
I can only imagine my younger self scratching his head over that idea. Science fiction reader he was, he might have got the idea. I’m not sure. Seeing it, listening on wireless earbuds, he would have been amazed. Despite all of that—people still read.
I watched The Daily Show with Sarah Silverman recently. She’s great. I’d watch it more often if she stayed on as host. She did a segment about how social media companies profit off our outrage (a segment that benefits from our outrage of social media companies profiting off our outrage).
It’s good. She makes a lot of great points in the story. I’ve cut way back on my use of social media—except YouTube. It’s still one of those places where it’s possible to stay out of the outrage loop. You can go down the rabbit hole of gardening videos, get inspired to create art, and discover terrific books to read—and YouTube will recommend more of that if you keep watching.
That doesn’t change the fact that these companies benefit off our engagement and outrage (like sex) sells. Often it’s outrage about sex. Sex other people are having. Or, sex you’re not having. Whatever the actual topic, Silverman points out how the algorithms used by these companies keep the outrage going.
My answer to this: read a book. Of course books can cause outrage too, make no mistake, and often do. It’s fundamentally different, though, to sit down and read a book than doomscrolling down an thread of outrage. Turning off the news and reading a book is a more positive act. It engages our brains differently to focus and think about what we’re reading. It also opens us up to possibilities and perspectives in a way that is entirely different than watching something online.
So 75% of adults reading a book (even if they didn’t finish it) is something I find encouraging. Especially if they read fiction and books written from other perspectives. We learn so much about being human with that simple act.
Booktalk: What I’m Reading
I finally opened a book that’s been on my shelf for a while, The Penny-a-Word Brigade: Pulp Fictioneers Discuss Their Craft edited by Ed Hulse.
The book is a collection of articles written by pulp writers from 1922 to 1949 about the craft and business of writing. I find it fascinating reading these articles. The thought that is constantly in the back of my mind—they did this on a manual typewriter. No computer. No looking things up on the internet. No software tools that so many writers believe useful now. And they often wrote far more than writers today. It hasn’t made me want to give up my computers or tools, but I am learning things that still apply today.
In audio, I just finished listening to Queens of an Alien Sun by Peter F. Hamilton, the third book in his Arkship Trilogy.
I’d enjoyed the first two books in this series, and this one was an engaging and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. It’s a coming-of-age series set on a generation ship in which aliens have secretly taken over.
In e-book, I’m reading The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett.
Pratchett’s first book, updated and illustrated by the author, it concerns the disruption called the Fray that comes to the people of the Carpet. It’s what I turn to when I want something lighter and amusing to read.
That’s it for this issue of READINARY. I’ve been dealing with health issues and migrating my website to Shopify, so I haven’t been writing much lately. The website migration is nearly complete, at least the initial phase, so that’ll help to have it done and out of the way. I hope you’re well and finding good books to read! If you're interested in supporting my work, you can become a paid READINARY subscriber, pick up copies of my books, books I share by other authors (I earn a small affiliate commission, at no cost to you), watch my videos, and share this newsletter.
If you want. No problem if you don't. I'll likely be back in a couple weeks with another issue. Until then.
Best wishes, always—Ryan