Every morning I tell myself, Today has to be productive — and then something happens that prevents me from writing… Something always happens. Each morning I already know I will be able to waste the whole day. There is always something to do: go to the bank, the post office, pay some bills … always some bureaucratic tangle I have to deal with.
But what’s most interesting is how much the role of the newspaper in Calvino’s life — a medium intended to inform but in this case used to distract — resembles how we tend to use the internet today, down to its addictive nature and our many failed resolutions to wean ourselves off of it:
While I am out I also do errands such as the daily shopping: buying bread, meat, or fruit. First thing, I buy newspapers. Once one has bought them, one starts reading as soon as one is back home — or at least looking at the headlines to persuade oneself that there is nothing worth reading. Every day I tell myself that reading newspapers is a waste of time, but then … I cannot do without them. They are like a drug. In short, only in the afternoon do I sit at my desk, which is always submerged in letters that have been awaiting answers for I do not even know how long, and that is another obstacle to be overcome.
What’s most poignant, of course, isn’t the mere parallel but also the fact that, today, newspapers struggle for their survival precisely because of the internet, which has proven to be an even more unforgiving “drug” for our collective attention. Calvino considers how this has impacted his daily routine:
In theory I would like to work every day. But in the morning I invent every possible excuse not to work: I have to go out, make some purchases, buy the newspaper. As a rule, I manage to waste the morning, so I end up sitting down to write in the afternoon. I’m a daytime writer, but since I waste the morning I’ve become an afternoon writer. I could write at night, but when I do, I don’t sleep. So I try to avoid that.
Καλημέρα. Υπέροχο. Και, για να το βρίσκουμε:
Q: If someone from the 1950s suddenly appeared today, what would be the most difficult thing to explain to them about life today?
A: I possess a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get in arguments with strangers.
Η εντεκάχρονη κόρη μου διαβάζει μανιωδώς ετικέτες. Όλες τις ετικέτες, ολόκληρες, σε όλες τις γλώσσες (ακόμη και αυτές που δεν ξέρει, αρκεί να έχουν οικείο αλφάβητο). Φυσικά διαβάζει επίσης βιβλία, κόμιξ κλπ. Προχτές πέρασε όλη της τη μέρα διαβάζοντας, γιατί ήταν αργία, εγώ δουλεύω συνέχεια και ο μπαμπάς της επίσης είχε δουλειές. Της λέω: - Αν θέλεις μπορείς να ανοίξεις το λάπτοπ να περάσεις την ώρα σου. - Τι να το κάνω; - Να βρεις πράγματα στο ίντερνετ. - Τι πράγματα; - Ξέρω κι εγώ; Ό,τι σε ενδιαφέρει. Τι σε ενδιαφέρει; - Τα βιβλία.
Ουγκ. Το παιδί μου είναι ανώμαλο.
Της είπα φυσικά ότι μπορεί να βρει ΚΑΙ βιβλία στο ίντερνετ. - Και μετά τι θα τα κάνω; - Θα τα διαβάσεις. Στον υπολογιστή. - Μα αφού έχω αυτά που διαβάζω στη βιβλιοθήκη.
Recently, I finished a long, two-year stretch at a computer creating my book. Feeling the effect of such intense screen use, I took the time to observe and catalogue how it affected my mind, emotions and behaviours.