Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Slow-Books Manifesto

By Maura Kelly - The Atlantic - Mar 26 2012

Read books. As often as you can. Mostly classics.
Everywhere you look these days, there's a new "slow" movement. Since 1989, when the activists behind the Slow Food manifesto began calling on us to change the way we eat—arguing that meals that take time to prepare are better for our health, our world, and our happiness than faster foods—their ideas have steadily gained power. In recent years, splinter groups like the Slow Beer Movement and the Slow Cocktail Movement have formed. A November Washington Post piece by author-to-be Emily Matchar trumpeted the even newer New Domesticity Movement—so new that her book about it won't be out till next year. The effort unites a growing number of people interested in old-fashioned household activities—like making their own jams, whiskey, and pickled vegetables. They do it "both for fun and for a greater sense of control over what we eat," as Matchar wrote.
I'm all for efforts like these. But why so much emphasis on what goes into our mouths, and so little on what goes into our minds? What about having fun while exerting greater control over what goes into your brain? Why hasn't a hip alliance emerged that's concerned about what happens to our intellectual health, our country, and, yes, our happiness when we consume empty-calorie entertainment? The Slow Food manifesto lauds "quieter pleasures" as a means of opposing "the universal folly of Fast Life"—yet there's little that seems more foolish, loudly unpleasant, and universal than the screens that blare in every corner of America (at the airport, at the gym, in the elevator, in our hands). "Fast" entertainment, consumed mindlessly as we slump on the couch or do our morning commute, pickles our brains—and our souls.
That's why I'm calling for a Slow Books Movement (one that's a little more developed than this perfectly admirable attempt).
In our leisure moments, whenever we have down time, we should turn to literature—to works that took some time to write and will take some time to read, but will also stay with us longer than anything else. They'll help us unwind better than any electronic device—and they'll pleasurably sharpen our minds and identities, too.
To borrow a cadence from Michael Pollan: Read books. As often as you can. Mostly classics.
The full piece here.

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