While on our honeymoon, my wife and I sat around and watched some Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While watching “The Zeppo,” I got in the mood to read some H.P. Lovecraft. I guess tentacled elder demons bringing on the Apocalypse kind of do that to me.
So before I snuggle into bed, I decide to fire up the Stanza iPhone eBook app and read a Lovecraft short story before bed. I figure I’d hit up “Nyarlathotep” or maybe “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” to meet my Elder God creepiness quota for the evening.
First, though, I loaded Google Reader just to check and see what was going on. Apparently, a lot was. Because before I knew it, two hours had passed and I had worked my way through all ~75 RSS blog posts.
By that point, sleep was a necessity and Lovecraft would have to wait.
The next day, I tell my wife how bad I felt about reading blogs for hours when I intended to nuzzle in with some fiction because this happens all the time. I read troves of blogs daily, but I’m an English teacher, and the last book I actually read (not an audiobook) was in May. May!
In my mind, my reading habits border on absurd. But her response shocked me: she told me—in so many words—that “reading is reading.”
I tend to agree with her. After all, I think that “writing is writing,” so why should I think any less of the flip side of the equation?
And yet, for some reason, I do—at least subconsciously. I just can’t seem to justify why.
What gets me is that it’s not like I’m not reading at all. Were I doing nothing but watching hours upon hours of TV and playing tons of video games without ever seeing a written word, I honestly think I would have something to feel bad about. I would be squandering my interest and education. But I’m still reading. I’m balancing my free time between TV, games, and reading, but I feel bad because all my reading these days comes from an online, digital outlet rather than an established literary source.
Consciously, I know the work and energy put into blogs can equal work and energy put into books. And I know that just as many ideas—both good and bad—spring forth from blogs as books.
Quality writing is quality writing, no matter the medium.
I know that good bloggers write, edit, and revise like any other author. Why then does saying “I read 46 books last year” make me feel better than saying “I read between 50 and 75 different blog posts a day?”
I really don’t have a good answer for that.
I want to fall back on the stigma that it’s online and that anyone can publish anything they want, but I don’t think that’s it. I’m very particular with my RSS subscriptions, so I only feed myself what I consider quality blogs. I don’t read the chaff that “just anybody can write.” Also, I am an active participant in the blogosphere (obviously), thus making an aversion to the medium itself self-loathing and antithetical.
The only other idea I can come up with is the importance I place on narrative in writing. Blogs, by nature, lack a narrative arc. Unless it’s one of those really neat blogs entirely based around telling a story, a blog sits in a pseudo-journalistic, non-fiction quagmire without a structured beginning, middle, and end. Which is why I think it doesn’t sit as highly in my mind as even fluff novels. To me, skill with words can go only so far if the story being told is uninteresting. The story is the backbone of writing in my mind, and blogs are generally more angled toward journalism than narration.
Stories fulfill me; they make me happy. It’s why I became an English major in the first place—to make a living by looking at stories I love with a critical eye. So to take the whole of my daily reading out of the realm of narrative and place it fully in a non-fiction format which precludes narrative almost entirely, I must find something missing by default, even when I completely enjoy and consider myself fulfilled by my reading habits.
I do plan, however, to get back to my chapter-before-bed routine starting with Stephen King’s upcoming novel, Under the Dome. I’ll still get through the blogs in my reader and not feel quite so icky that I’m neglecting my beloved literature.
Am I alone in this? Is there really a difference in what we read? Does it matter if a person reads only blogs or spends a summer reading Charles Dickens’ or Stephen King’s whole library? Does the value of words come from deeper factors like medium and content or is it simply the act of reading that is important?