Tim O’Brien and the Art of Storytelling

Another great longread on the Atlantic about the way a story must be told, written by Tom O’Brien, made me want to say a few words about the book I haven’t finished yet but already know it well deserved its place in the school curriculum.

I’ve been reading (well, in fact, listening to) The Things They Carried and it is absolutely amazing. Not the war thing, not the terror and fear and death and disgust thing, but the way he narrates those stories, the way they capture the reader’s attention, and you no longer care what is true and what is imaginary, you just know that until you hear the ending you will not be able to put the book (the earphones) down.

“That’s what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”

In addition to the brilliance of the prose itself, Bryan Cranston‘s performance is incredible, I wish he would narrate something from Dickens or other guys sticklers to volume. Strangely enough, Tim O’Brien himself doesn’t strike me as a great reader (and I wish I could unsee his outfit).

On Ebooks

A new study which found that readers using a Kindle were “significantly” worse than paperback readers at recalling when events occurred in a mystery story is part of major new Europe-wide research looking at the impact of digitisation on the reading experience, suggests The Guardian. 

The study, presented in Italy at a conference last month and set to be published as a paper, gave 50 readers the same short story by Elizabeth George to read. Half read the 28-page story on a Kindle, and half in a paperback, with readers then tested on aspects of the story including objects, characters and settings.

“The Kindle readers performed significantly worse on the plot reconstruction measure, ie, when they were asked to place 14 events in the correct order.” The researchers suggest that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does”.

It is so, so weak. 

Why didn’t they conduct an experiment making the very same readers swap the “reading devices”? Check reading speed? Past experience in reading? Perhaps those readers who failed to render the plot and put the events in order could not read at all? My, it sounds so stupid it makes me want to scream; what kind of creature would fail to chonologically place the events of a just-read story in order? A goldfish? Then again, not even a goldfish should be asked to read Elizabeth George.

I surely love paper books routine — browsing bookshops for hours, leafing thorough the pages, making dog-ears, sticking a pencil in my hair, just in case I find a cool quote, — but I am strongly convinced that a Kindle has lots of perks. It is a) lighter than most books, b) occupies less space in my well-stuffed handbag, c) always provides fonts of a convenient size (oh, I remember reading Byatt’s Possession and CURSING Vintage publishing house for that reprint edition) — I can go on and on while I get to eco-friendly. Students of our faculty of philology have long switched to digital books, having failed to get all those unpopular and poorly published Sendrars and Karamzins from the libraries.

So, I’m just going to get back to my Stella Gibbons (totally unfoundable anywhere in Russia but Kindle store)