“I like fantasy books! I used to read a lot of Eoin Colfer.”
“What does that mean, used to? You don’t read anymore? That’s so sa-a-a-ad…”
Our teacher and I had this conversation during our first English class, and I realized I agreed with her. Well, no, of course I still read: news articles, r/AskReddit threads, and the books we get assigned in class. But not fiction, almost. As I later mentioned to my teacher, I followed Sam Hughes’ Ra avidly (something I highly recommend). That was it.
What does my present self still think of Eoin Colfer? Although I adored the Artemis Fowl books when I was younger, my interest faded, but not before I had recommended it to my sister. The conversation spurred me to get out the seventh Artemis Fowl book, which I had stopped reading halfway through a year ago, and finish it. It was still true that I didn’t like it as much, because I couldn’t feel the high stakes strongly in the book and I found that the joking asides compounded the problem. But a few days later, when we took a trip to the Taipei library, I found the eighth book and borrowed it, plowing through nine-tenths of the book before we left. The ending seemed to be happy but still felt counterintuitively poignant for me. In any case, I had closure.
So what’s the lesson? Authors vary in output too. I was naïve to suppose that because I found this book boring, I had outgrown all books that were even vaguely similar. In the same trip, I also borrowed a bunch of other random fantasy books, plus a realistic fiction book about a teenage pregnancy, just for kicks. It turned out to be surprisingly good. In a week, I read four books, cover to cover, despite a typical load of homework and chemo.
Any excuses I made before about not having enough time simply don’t hold water. Still, I have yet to figure out if this sort of reading is sustainable, because not every book is so engrossing. Far from it…
Note: My 2012 self wrote this. It is a little dated and does not entirely capture my current beliefs and attitudes, although I have to say it’s not too far off either. As of 2018, Me and Facebook is more relevant.
Here’s a guilty secret: I like getting feedback.
I’m not restricting myself to painstakingly thoughtful comments that attempt to build upon and transform the post to form an interesting conversation, the kind English teachers are hellbent on promoting. Sure, I get the most kicks out of those, but I’m not picky. Even single-digit pageview bars or a handful of Facebook “like”s give me buzzes of excitement.
It’s a guilty feeling, because I also think that that these are unimaginably cheap internet currencies and should not qualify as “meaningful” under a rational mindset. I strongly suspect visitors accidentally click on my blog and leave after five seconds without taking in anything, because I do that all the time to other people’s blogs and sites. Sometimes it is out of boredom, sometimes it is because I actually have something of higher priority to do than indiscriminate reading, sometimes it is simply because I cannot read the language. I’ve seen plenty of people like posts on Facebook based on the poster, only occasionally taking into consideration the first word of the post in question, before actually reading them.
Yes, the proliferation of “liking” on Facebook bothers me. I don’t expect everybody to reply meaningfully to everything when they just want to express approval lightly. However, when I see that tiny minority of people handing them out to people in their own threads like programs at a concert, I become indignant. Under their influence, what was originally a straightforward, meaningful badge of appreciation becomes a handwavy gesture that carries virtually no weight, and then I don’t know what to do when I see something I like seriously. Will clicking that button still express the feeling strongly enough?
I accept that, in our stressful world, a few instant effortless gags that take ten seconds to fully process and approve deserve a place. Nevertheless, the number of people who seem to want to make the “like” a completely passive and automatic action is almost physically painful:
Note: My 2012 self wrote this. It’s a bit dated, but it’s okay, and also is of historical interest for featuring me explaining the CSS I learned from English class.
Every time I notice that I have hoarded a large number of strange assignments and essays from another school year of work I get all guilty. First there’s the knowledge about ancient Chinese dynasties and plant hormones that I only have shadows of recollections of, which makes me wonder whether all the time and effort invested by teachers, classmates, and myself have gone wasted.
I know, though, that given that I still sense these shadows, it shouldn’t be difficult to look up and relearn this stuff if I ever need to do so. This brings me to the non-factual parts of the learning, such as writing skills with all its variations. There’s persuasive writing, which I don’t use much because I can’t usually even persuade myself to take a side in anything, let alone others. There’s descriptive writing mode, which I don’t use much because the most vividly describable things I encounter are food, and the shallowness of piling flowery adjectives together to talk about food just makes me cringe nowadays. Previously, I wrote at least two such compositions in sixth grade. Blech.
Some bloggers have a regular schedule for posting and forcing themselves to meet the deadlines. In essence, something like “updates every Thursday.”
For me, I think this is a bad idea, because it forces me to write. If my day is boring and uneventful as it quite often is and I still have to crank out a post, it would not be a post that readers would enjoy. Better once-a-month enthusiastic, interesting posts then an ugly stream of tedious drudgery for the visitor to wade through every time, stuff like (quoting one random ancient post):