Lessons in living

Chances are, cutting down screen time, especially on your phone, is somewhere on the top of your list of new year resolutions for 2019. And there are any number of productivity hacks and tips for intentional living to guide you in segregating screen-free chunks of time on your daily schedule. They may even work for the long-term, but an equally, if not considerably more, effective way of accomplishing this goal is to read The End of the End of the Earth , American novelist Jonathan Franzen’s collection of essays over the past five years.It is doubtful that Franzen set out to specifically counsel caution against smartphones, but reading his collection of essays from the past five years in one go, the reader cannot help but take stock of our current age of distractedness, not just in her personal life but in the larger debate on politics and “ the issue of our time, perhaps the biggest issue in all of human history”, climate change. In a review essay on MIT professor Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation (2015), Franzen refers to “a time, not so long ago, when conversation and privacy and nuanced debate weren’t boutique luxuries”. His point is not to nostalgically recap that time, but to convey its absence by observing and critiquing the anxious, edgy and herd-like manner in which we conduct public debate and organise our leisure time. To recover mental equilibrium and autonomy (the presumed objective of weaning ourselves off our smartphones), the collection makes a case for clearing space in our lives for literature.

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