Monday, August 06, 2012

The weariness of cultural consumption. Well, MIFF is in full swing at the moment. I'm following the hashtag #miff2012 on Twitter, and have noticed that after only three full days of the festival, some people have already seen 16 or 17 films.

I have 31 films booked in over the course of the festival, and so far I've seen a modest six: The Sapphires; Killer Joe; Harold and Maude; Room 237; Girl Model and V/H/S.

MIFF bingeing to me seems like only one symptom of a tendency to stuff ourselves with culture like foie gras geese. I am constantly observing people on Facebook and Twitter talking about the films, TV shows and plays they've seen, the books and magazine articles they've read, the albums they're listening to, the concerts and exhibitions they've gone to, the current affairs issues and internet memes they're across, and so on.

How do these people find the time? It's my job to consume culture, and I feel weary, not euphoric, at the thought of trying to cram all this into my life. As it is, I only managed to unwrap the weekend papers this afternoon. (Still haven't read them yet.) If it weren't for book club, I wouldn't have read a book in months.

Sometimes I feel reassured by things like this NPR story "You Can't Possibly Read It All, So Stop Trying". And I'm reminded of a passage in The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst, the last full book I read (I've started several more over recent months but couldn't get into them and petered out):
She felt something similar, but worse in a way, about hundreds and hundreds of books she'd read, novels, biographies, occasional books about music and art – she could remember nothing about them at all, so that it seemed rather pointless even to say that she had read them; such claims were a thing people set great store by but she hardly supposed they recalled any more than she did. Sometimes a book persisted as a coloured shadow at the edge of sight, as vague and unrecapturable as something seen in the rain from a passing vehicle: looked at directly it vanished altogether.
The Stranger's Child is a book about the chimerical qualities of memory, and I suppose I've been dwelling on this of late. Also, I tend to require time to ponder the things I consume, and I like to seek out secondary texts such as reviews, interviews and analysis. I take a whole day to express all this stuff in a 200-word film review that nobody even reads.

No wonder my book is proceeding at a glacial pace as I try to draw together disparate cultural sources and make them make sense. I just have no idea how I am going to produce a first draft by the end of August. It is going to be one sorry document, that's for sure.

I read and value your film reviews. Thank you for crafting them.
I mostly just read your blogs. I look forward to the book though.

I love this post. I feel so much better knowing not being able to read, see, hear, and do everything bothers other people as well.
I agree with Philip. Your film reviews are amazing.
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