Alan Jacobs: Breaking Bad with the Dead
Temporal bandwidth and personal density
After reading his “The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction”, where Jacobs mistakenly thought that the Kindle will allow him distraction-free reading (I am sure in the years since the book, he has changed his mind), but where is basically puts together a reading list, without actually calling it a reading list (that is how I decided to re-read Kim by Kipling), I wanted to read more.
“Art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead”, he starts off the second chapter, Table Fellowship with this line.
In the first chapter, the main focus is on the concepts of temporal bandwidth, information overload, presentism, social acceleration, the noise of our attention commons and personal density (Mondaugen’s Law - personal density is directly proportional to temporal bandwidth). Here he lays the background of what he has to say further….that to be tranquil, we need to increase our temporal bandwidth. In the second chapter, one method that he mentions is that of inviting the dead (authors and their books) to sit at our table, even if we don’t like their work because of our beliefs, simply because it allows us to slow down and examine another point of view. He spends 3 pages on Anita Desai’s City of Light, which I will now be ordering to read.
I finished the rest of the book over a week, but the tenor is the same. How we can learn by reading old books of dead people, but we should try and distance ourselves and even if we don’t agree with the thoughts of those people, we can still try and enjoy their writings, while managing to compartmentalize their thoughts, especially if they don’t jell with our thinking these days, e.g. the whole Taming of the Shrew issue, which would seem so anachronistic these days.
The Pleasures of Reading… is a better book. Breaking Bad… is interesting, but while it started out well, it was just more of the same thing…a book that could have been written up in a long essay or article.