by Graeme Swanson, author of Why I’m Alone
I hope you’re enjoying this. I’m squeezing my laptop dry. Each word is as rare as a chicken’s dentist but I’m pumping them out, for you. The problem is I can’t concentrate. I can’t focus on anything, least of all words, and I blame my education. Since leaving university I’ve had a brain like one of those metal net things they have in kitchens, like a colander only with smaller holes? My mind is pulp. I’ll google it in a moment but in the meantime let me tell you what’s wrong.
My mind is a soup of cultural reference points. It slipped into my spacesuit and down my gullet, like that bit in Prometheus. It crushed me with love, like that bit in Mice And Men, and it chained me to the bed like…have you seen The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? You can have too much of a good thing and I have grown numb to brilliance. Studying the arts and humanities brought on an addiction in nowness. I have to be aware of everything, every film, every song and every book, every blog, every column and every tweet. As long as they’re talking about culture I don’t care. So scared am I of missing something that I’m permanently like an eight year old boy refusing to go to bed because he’ll miss the scary film, but there’s too much to see. I can’t keep up. I spend more time reading about something than experiencing it. I’ve fallen in love with criticism and forgotten the criticised. As someone who grew up in a world-wide-webless age with only four channels and a listings guide my brain hasn’t evolved quickly enough. I had an advantage over my fellow students. I’d heard of David Bowie, (really) I already knew Joseph Conrad was a modernist and I’d seen Star Wars in an actual cinema. These kids have literally never heard of Billy Ocean. A first is practically in the bag. What I didn’t know was how much ‘now’ there is.
Twitter hasn’t helped. As much as I love it, it’s reduced my attention span down to a minute. I’ve lost count of how many blogs I’ve started to read and given up three paragraphs in; not because they’re badly written or uninteresting but because I feel I haven’t got time. Twitter has a talent for telling you you’re going to die soon. Not only can you spend hours on it but it reminds you haven’t seen Eastbound And Down yet and that one about girls, Girls? Oh and the one about a meths lab and that New York Times article about Cormac McCarthy was hilar! Stop. Calm. #Givemesomepeace.
Every day in every way I am getting better, I tell myself. I force myself to read fiction for twenty minutes a time, I’m slowly remembering books, Since graduating I’ve started going back to the cinema and enjoy tutting and those who check their phones. I grip mine in my pocket until my knuckles turn white. My hand wants to push my phone in my face and my other wants to stop it, just like that bit in Dr Strangelove.