I almost can’t remember a time before the internet. One thing that interests and frightens me is that I don’t really think about privacy when I’m on the internet. I’ve never really known anything else. Just click the “accept the terms” button and attempt to control what people think of you on Facebook and Twitter.
It’s another layer of artifice. It doesn’t lend itself to a lot of depth, of course. It doesn’t have to be. There can be great, deep things in it. I think that the sustained attention that the novel has is more important than ever. I really think that it’s a good counter – and this is going to make me sound like an old fogey, which is fine – I do resist turning novels into apps, making them into interactive objects. One of the things that’s nice about is is that it requires sustained focus: it isn’t distractable, it isn’t clickable. Part of us has to be a little bit hungry for that as an alternative. It isn’t that I wouldn’t read on the e-reader – I do – but I just don’t like the whole clickability thing. I want that sustained attention. I’m much more of a reader than a writer: I’ve only written 3 books; I’ve read more than 3 books. That deep focus that exists over time is sort of hard to come by.
Like when I saw Tree of Life: if you watch it at home, you can be interrupted, you can check your messages, you can do whatever. But you go to the theater and it’s this oppressive thing: it’s going to be giant, you’re going to be small, you have to turn off your phone, you’re in the dark. That’s the way I think a novel is, too. I know it’s a pain in the ass to get out of your house, but you’re going to have this experience that you’re not going to have if you were distracted. Maybe a novel is a bit more obnoxious, because you’re asking for more than 2 ½ hours. But my book’s not very long. You could read it in 2 ½ hours!