Reading is Situational

I tried to read S, by Doug Dorst and JJ Abrams but found it uninteresting. The main story’s writing style was dull (though there’s a theory that that was intentional, which is curious) and I lost interest in the side-story. But I think my enjoyment of S was hindered by where I read it.

I read in three places:

  1. on my train commute to and from work
  2. in the library at lunchtime
  3. in bed at night.

Given the paraphernalia that comes with S—postcards, memos, scraps of paper jammed variously between pages—I was never going to read it on the train, recognising how many pieces would end up on the floor, lost down the sides of seats, in the laps of my unimpressed fellow passengers. And the book that travels to work with me is the same one I read at lunchtime. So that left bedtime. Unsurprisingly, I’m not at my cognitive best at night, and sleepiness rolls over me quickly. I struggled to follow the jumps from S’s main story to the sidenotes and back, trying to keep track of what S (the main character) knew. I’ve read David Foster Wallace, I can handle jumping between main text and footnotes. But S has the reader jumping from body text to the page’s top, back and off to the side, all over, following scribbled notes around the pages. After a few dozen pages I was lost. I quit.

I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed S in any situation. But I wonder if I would’ve taken in more had the book accompanied me to work, allowing me to read it for ninety minutes a day instead of ten, at a time when I was more awake and able to process the dual storylines.

I’m not going to read it again, so we’ll never know



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