Read. Write. Repeat.

A brief collection of things. Antonym No. 7

Dear Reader

What’s the point of writing a newsletter? I mean, obviously, if you’re unlikely to make money from it?

Clive Thompson in Smarter Than You Think:

[…] Writing is curiously pivotal to reading. As I noted when I first discussed public thinking, writing about the stuff we’re reading activates the generation effect. We internalize our reading more deeply. Indeed, literacy scholar Steve Graham recently crunched dozens of reading studies and found that “writing about a text proved to be better than just reading it, reading and rereading it, reading and studying it, reading and discussing it, and receiving reading instruction.”

Yeah, I thought it was something like that. It’s about writing to make all the reading work harder for you.

You’ll be delighted to know that not only is this newsletter self-indulgent note-sorting, then, but that I also take inspiration from Laurence Block’s advice to writers in his distillation of advice learned in decades of pulp crime story writing: 

"One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly." – Lawrence Block, Telling Lies for Fun & Profit

Can do, Mr Block! Let’s go....

How to read a lot (better)

Reading benefits from writing and writing benefits from reading. 

I read a lot. How do you find the time, I’m asked. The response is about as useful as those instructions on how to grow a beard that begin “stop shaving” – you have to make time to read. You have to want to and then you prioritise it ahead of other things. 

In a recent episode of Radio 4’s Open Book, there was a discussion about how to read a lot and read well. The presenter talked to Andy Miller, who wrote The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life, as well as the author Jacob Ross and Richard Lee, a journalist who wrote for Guardian Books. 

Their main tips were as follows: 

Andy Miller: 

- Make time. Get up early.

- You get faster with practice. The more you read, the faster you can read...

- He likes to know what he will be reading next. 

- Read a few books at a time, but not of the same type. 

- Read 2 - 3 books that are not “treading on each other’s toes”

Richard Lee, Guardians Books

- An organised to-read list definitely helps. 

- Don’t worry about remembering everything you read because you won’t 

- Everything you read, in some sense, becomes part of you.

- Don’t remember details but you maintain “that sense of the book”

Jacob Ross, author

- Always carry a book.

- You can learn to read quicker. Trust your brain.

- Rational, imaginative and emotional faculties are all engaged when you read.

- Reading widely makes you more open minded because it gives you access to other minds.

And if you’re still wondering how you can

Hungry humans

"Full bellies breed gentle manners. The pinch of famine makes monsters."

— Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies

But what of souls? Our locked down hearts are aching, emptied. There is a famine of feelings.  

If Covid continues to mean some form of lockdown and long-term social distancing, says Steven Taylor, professor of clinical psychology at the University of British Columbia, it will be harder for governments to enforce restrictions.

“Humans are highly social creatures,” he says. “The longer the pandemic draws out, the greater the odds of pandemic fatigue and associated problems such as depression and withdrawal into forms of boredom-focused coping such as substance abuse.”

Malnourished souls will find solace where they can. But Netflix binges and drinking wine will only work as a stop-gap for so long. I am starving for human contact, from the mundane to the profound, chatting to strangers to hugging my family.

Quick links

Digital Whiskey’s Twitter thread on how LinkedIn’s algorithm amplifies posts is excellent.

Adieu, Disco Pete. Legendary dancer at everything in Brighton since the 1980s. 

Epidummyology. Simple explanations of the complex science behind the pandemic.

Amazing visualisation of connections in philosophy:

The hilarity of hopelessness:

"You may not be very interested in war, Trotsky is supposed to have said, but war is very interested in you." — Ian Morris, War

I promised myself I would keep writing these every Sunday. As the Arab saying goes, a promise is a roll of thunder, it’s fulfilment is the falling rain.

I hope there was something here for you. Thanks for reading with me.